«RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TEACHER PREPAREDNESS AND INQUIRY-BASED INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES TO STUDENTS’ SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT: EVIDENCE FROM TIMSS 2007 A ...»
Okebukola, 1987; Oliver-Hoyo & Allen 2005; Parker & Gerber, 2000; Tamir & Glassman, 1971). Increased attention has focused on helping science teachers to depart from traditional, didactic methods of instruction and provide opportunities for students to become engaged in more active, meaningful, and higher-level learning.
Despite the evidence correlating inquiry-based science instruction with increased achievement, many teachers are still resistant to such changes in pedagogy. Some of the recent educational reform efforts to transition traditional science instruction into more innovative, inquiry-based programs have not been completely successful. Studies of teaching and learning in science classrooms reported that most teachers are still using traditional, didactic methods (Harms & Yager, 1980; Seymour, 2002; Unal & Akpinar, 2006).
Science teachers must be adequately prepared to implement inquiry-based instruction effectively. Recommendations for ways to support science teacher’s successful integration of inquiry-based instruction into science classrooms, such as ample training and preparation, support to develop a positive self-efficacy for inquiry-based instruction, and development of inquiry-based curriculum materials, all have the potential to foster positive support for science teachers. Since the use of inquiry-based instruction is imperative for science education reform and student achievement (NRC, 1996), science educators need to be adequately prepared to implement inquiry-based instruction to engage students in the process of learning science.
In view of the results, there are four major implications for educational practice. First, clear, guiding principles must support the visions of the national science education reforms and national and state science standards. Second, teacher preparation institutes must use those same guiding principles to train and prepare science teachers for effective implementation of inquiry-based instruction. Third, as science teachers orchestrate inquiry-based lessons, teacher professional development, supervision and support is needed to provide continuous growth and positive self-efficacy. The fourth implication is that curriculum developers need to provide instructional materials that are appropriate and current.
Clear, guiding principles must support the visions of the national science education reforms and national and state science standards. Science educators, researchers, and philosophers have provided multiple interpretations of inquiry. Consequently, teachers of science are left to interpret the foundation, implementation, and results of inquiry-based instruction and the effects on student learning. To help clarify, the NRC (2000) released Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, however as discussed in Chapter 2, research support the notion that science educators are still unclear about what inquiry means coupled with the uncertainty of implementing inquirybased instruction. When teachers develop and enact their own ideas of inquiry-based instruction in their classroom practice, these conceptions may not necessarily match with the vision of the reform documents. Science teachers need to have a lucid conception of how inquiry-based instruction is implemented and take this conception to the classroom for students to be engaged in an inquiry-based learning environment. Thus, science educators, researchers, and philosophers should obtain a better conception of inquirybased instruction.
A second implication was for teacher preparation institutes to use guiding principles to train and prepare science teachers for effective implementation of inquirybased instruction. According to literature on science education reform, one reason reform efforts fail are the inadequate preparation for the teachers who are expected to enact specific methods of instruction (National Research Council, 1996). Pre-service teachers of science need adequate content and pedagogical knowledge where inquirybased instruction has a dominant role in preparing them to employ inquiry-based instruction in classrooms. Teacher preparation institutes need to provide knowledge, experiences, and supervision to prepare science teachers to design and implement inquiry-based lessons. When teachers have feelings of preparedness for inquiry-based instruction in both their content and pedagogical knowledge, science teachers are confident that they can deliver such instruction to their students (NRC, 1996b).
In addition to the importance of teacher preparation and experience, the school districts and administrators play an important role in facilitating or impeding the implementation of inquiry-based instruction in classrooms.
A third implication was as science teachers orchestrate inquiry-based lessons, teacher supervision, professional development, and support is needed to provide continuous growth and positive self-efficacy. According to the NRC (1996), one reason reform efforts fail are from insufficient professional development for the teachers who are expected to enact these reform efforts. Teachers can often be subjected by reform efforts to make changes in their instruction that are beyond their knowledge-base and pedagogical understanding (Ball & Cohen, 1996; Davis, 2003). The National Standards (NRC, 2000) describe specifically how school districts can support teachers in their attempts to implement inquiry-based instruction. One way is to emphasize and focus on the changes that are called for in the standards and less emphasis on other extraneous policies. A second way is to provide long-term and on-going support for teachers that center on a commitment to inquiry-based instruction. A third way is to provide opportunities to actively participate and interact with new ideas and understandings. Considering these three concepts, the duration in which these experiences are provided are also important. Teachers need sufficient opportunities to work in environments in which they have time and access to participate in support activities and professional interactions with colleagues along with time to reflect on their own pedagogy. The amount of time devoted to these professional development experiences are important for transference to occur into the science classrooms. These considerations concerning proper professional development are needed for inquiry-based instruction to become prevalent in science classrooms.
A fourth implication was that curriculum developers need to provide instructional materials that are well conceived, coherent, and current. Curriculum materials can directly affect what concepts teachers will teach, the methods of instruction teachers will use, and the learning experiences teachers will provide their students.
Curriculum material needs to promote less emphasis on the purchase of textbooks based on didactic topics and more emphasis on the adoption and implementation of curriculum aligned with the standards. Most importantly, a conceptual approach that includes all the examples of inquiry-based instructional strategies as recommended by the National Science Standards is needed. Standards-based materials are needed to provide opportunities for students to become involved with rich content and engage in inquiry-based learning experiences.
Considerable effort has gone into disseminating research relating to the affects of inquiry-based instruction on student achievement to gain support for science education reform. Teachers are central to the success of reform efforts. Teachers need to understand and support the national science education reforms and national and state science standards. Teacher preparation institutes need to train and prepare science teachers for effective implementation of inquiry-based instruction.
School districts need to provide teacher professional development, supervision and support for continuous growth and positive self-efficacy. Curriculum developers need to provide instructional materials that are appropriate and current for teachers to implement. It is imperative that science teachers have the necessary knowledge, professional development, supervision and support, and curriculum materials to make reform efforts for inquiry-based instruction a success.
It is educationally sound to develop new methods and models of instruction and learning based on empirical evidence. Educators are the most important factors to getting new reform into the classrooms. There is clearly a need for continued research that documents the advantages that inquiry-based instruction has on student learning and achievement. Furthermore, continued research is needed to mitigate science teachers from reverting to more traditional means of instruction.
The research design used in this study suffered from two shortcomings that limit its actual usefulness. First, although the TIMSS 2007 study presents enormous bodies of data for analysis, this study is a secondary analysis, which poses all the cautions that are true of secondary analysis studies. Data collected from the teachers were limited by the questions asked, the directions for those questions, and the response selections provided. Second, this study relied on self-reported data to determine the orientation of science teachers, with respect to their preparedness and their instructional practices. The possibility of discrepancies in this study, such as teachers’ perceptions of their own instructional techniques or memory of the class in question, could result in distorted data. The findings of this study should be supplemented with or compared to other data sources. It is recommended that additional research on teaching practices focus on the video Study produced through TIMSS, which provided authentic classroom settings with a focus on teaching practices. This could provide a more accurate analysis of what actually occurred in the classrooms. In addition, researchers could develop their own instruments to determine the presence of inquiry-based instructional practices in the classroom as it was actually experienced by eighth-grade students. These possibilities would eliminate shortcomings that are inherent in questionnaires that require teachers to self-report information.
More studies are needed to investigate the instructional techniques science teachers are implementing in the science classrooms. Empirical evidence is necessary to help ensure proven methods and models of instruction are visible in classrooms. Many factors influence teacher practices. Continued educational research helps to determine how to get the best instructional practice into the classrooms.
Several documents and studies claim American students lag behind international standards and continue underperforming in science (Martin, Mullis, Gonzalez, & Chrostowski, 2004; Parker and Gerber, 2000; Roth, Druker, Garnier, Lemmens, Chen, Kawanaka, Rasmussen, Trubacova, Warvi, Okamoto, Gonzales, Stigler, & Gallimore, 2006;
Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). Science educators are working to improve science education. Science education researchers and National Research Council, stress the inclusion of inquiry-based science instruction into school science programs and curriculum. Inquiry-based instruction helps students achieve science understanding by combining scientific knowledge with reasoning and thinking skills (National Research Council, 2000). To implement inquirybased instruction into science classrooms successfully, teachers need to feel prepared using inquiry-based approaches. Teachers will require knowledge of science content and pedagogy.
This study examined the relationship between teachers’ preparedness to teach science content and their orientation of inquiry-base instructional practices to the science achievement of eighth grade science students in the United States as demonstrated on the TIMSS 2007 exam. Through correlation analysis, the researcher found statistically significant positive relationships emerge between eighth grade science teachers’ main area of study and their selfreported beliefs about their preparedness to teach that same content area. Another correlation analysis found a statistically significant positive relationship existed between teachers’ self-reported use of inquiry-based instruction and preparedness to teach biology, chemistry and physics, respectively. There was a statistically significant negative relationship between teachers’ selfreported use of inquiry-based instruction practices and preparedness to teach earth science. Another correlation analysis discovered a statistically significant positive relationship existed between physics preparedness and student science achievement. Teachers indicating physics as their main area of study also had a statistically significant positive relationship with having feelings of preparedness for both chemistry and earth science.
According to this study, physics teachers indicated feelings of being prepared to teach all science subjects except biology and it was physics teachers who indicated a statistically significant positive relationship between physics preparedness and student science achievement.
Finally, a correlation analysis found a statistically significant positive relationship existed between science teachers’ self-reported implementation of inquiry-based instructional practices and student achievement. The data finding in this study are consistent with other studies that correlate inquiry-based science instruction with an increase in student achievement.
The data findings support the conclusion that teachers who have feelings of preparedness to teach science content and implement more inquiry-based instruction and less didactic instruction produce high achieving science students. As science teachers obtain the appropriate knowledge in science content and pedagogy, science teachers will feel prepared and will implement inquiry-based instruction in science classrooms. The impact on teachers implementing inquiry-based instruction will become increasingly evident with student achievement.
Science educators continue to work to improve science education for all students. Inquiry-based instruction helps students achieve science understanding by combining scientific knowledge with reasoning and thinking skills (National Research Council, 2000). It is important that science educators continue to give priority to the implementation of inquiry-based learning opportunities.
Research in Science Teaching, 34, 633-653.