Date of Graduation

12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

William F. McComas

Committee Member

Cathy Wissehr

Second Committee Member

Mike J. Wavering

Abstract

Although hailed as a powerful form of instruction, in most teaching and learning contexts, inquiry-based instruction is fraught with ambiguous and conflicting definitions and descriptions. Yet little has been written about the experiences preservice science teacher have regarding their learning to teach science through inquiry. This project sought to understand how select preservice secondary science teachers enrolled in three UTeach programs in Arkansas conceptualize inquiry instruction and how they rationalize its value in a teaching and learning context. The three teacher education programs investigated in this study are adoption sites aligned with the UTeach Program in Austin, TX that distinguishes itself in part by its inquiry emphasis.

Using a mixed method investigation design, this study utilized two sources of data to explore the preservice science teachers’ thinking. In the first phase, a modified version of the Pedagogy of Science teaching Tests (POSTT) was used to identify select program participants who indicated preferences for inquiry instruction over other instructional strategies. Secondly, the study used an open-ended questionnaire to explore the selected subjects’ beliefs and conceptions of teaching and learning science in an inquiry context. The study also focused on identifying particular junctures in the prospective science teachers’ education preparation that might impact their understanding about inquiry.

Using a constant comparative approach, this study explored 19 preservice science teachers’ conceptions about inquiry. The results indicate that across all levels of instruction, the prospective teachers tended to have strong student-centered teaching orientations. Except subjects in for the earliest courses, subjects’ definitions and descriptions of inquiry tended toward a few of the science practices. More advanced subjects, however, expressed more in-depth descriptions. Excluding the subjects who have completed the program, multiple subjects tended to associate inquiry learning exclusively in terms of exploring before lecture, getting a single correct answer. Additionally, various subjects at multiple levels, described inquiry in terms of the 5E Model of Instruction, which is emphasized in the Arkansas UTeach lesson design. Implications of these findings and suggestions for program improvement at the course levels are suggested.

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