Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Jacqueline Specht

Abstract

This single, descriptive qualitative case study provides a snapshot of elementary teachers and their school principal’s multiple and competing views about personal and contextual factors affecting teacher engagement in collaborative professional learning (CPL) related to science education within the school environment. This study was viewed through the lens of Situated Learning Theory primarily by Lave and Wenger (1991) because viewing knowledge as situated has implications for understanding teacher learning and the design of instructional activities.

Data were collected from three female elementary teachers and their school principal in Ontario for a period of six months. The data included: five principal interviews; two teacher focus groups; three surveys (Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument, Science Teachers’ Pedagogical Discontentment scale, Beliefs about Reform Science Teaching and Learning); two questionnaires (demographics questionnaire, Professional Development Continuum Rubric) and; monthly professional development logs. The process of thematic coding was employed to analyze the data, and the findings were written with thick descriptions based on the narratives from the participants and descriptive data.

Three interpretive insights and implications into the synthesis of the findings included: (a) the lack of emphasis on science in Ontario’s elementary education, (b) the limited time available for CPL about science, and (c) the limited number of teaching partners to collaborate about science. The interconnectedness of the three concepts highlights the multiple and complex domains that influence teacher engagement in collaborative professional learning related to elementary science education in Ontario, Canada.

The overarching implication put forward in this research is the provision of ongoing professional learning with in-situ instructional science coaches working alongside the teachers to further develop their science teaching strategies related to inquiry-based approaches. To implement such concept, it is suggested that science is included in the School Effectiveness Framework so that when individual schools include science in their School Improvement Plan. Secondly, time for CPL needs to be included in teachers’ Collective Agreement. The benefits of these changes may include more teachers across the school engaging in CPL related to inquiry-based science, and expanding the network of teachers who collaborate with one another regarding science within the school setting.