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Scientists researching teaching: Reforming science education and transforming practice

Tarin Harrar Weiss, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Reforming science education is a multidimensional and complex undertaking. Of extreme importance is transforming how teachers teach. Answering the equity call of reform initiatives requires focusing on the underlying values and beliefs guiding teacher action and the promotion of inclusive practices (Brickhouse, 2001; Harding, 1994; Eisenhart, Finkel, & Marion, 1995; Mayberry & Rees, 1999; Rodriguez, 1997). Reform efforts within the last decade are being directed at college level science courses. Course and pedagogical transformations are particularly aimed at increasing the numbers of females and persons of color in science and improving the education of preservice teachers. Facilitating transformations toward these goals at the individual and program level is challenging work. This study explores and describes the conditions of the teacher change process toward an inclusive pedagogy. Two science professors affiliated with a reform collaborative were the main participants of the research. The professors, in collaboration with the primary researcher, engaged in assisted action research that lead to the identification and descriptions of their context and practical teaching theories. Among the questions explored were: “How does placing the professor in a position to conduct an assisted action research project help to foster teacher change conditions?” “How do the practical theories guiding the professors' teaching foster or impede inclusionary practice?” “What necessary conditions of the teacher change process toward an inclusive pedagogy emerged from the study?”. Using case study and ethnographic qualitative research strategies for data collection and analysis, this study affords a unique perspective through which to consider why and how science professors change their practice. Data indicated that the assisted action research strategy fostered the conditions of teacher change. In addition, findings revealed that the professors shared a teacher and curriculum centered teaching philosophy and an ethic of care and respect for their students that, in varying ways, both supported and impeded inclusive practice. Teacher change was heavily mediated by departmental contexts. Assertions are made about the necessary conditions of teacher change toward an inclusive pedagogy and implications for further research are explored.

Subject Area

Science education|School administration|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Weiss, Tarin Harrar, "Scientists researching teaching: Reforming science education and transforming practice" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3096321.