This paper compares and contrasts the impacts of three professional development designs aimed at middle school Earth science teachers on how teachers plan and enact instruction. The designs were similar in their alignment to research-based practices in science professional development: each design was of an extended duration and time span, included follow-up support to teachers, and incorporated active learning approaches in the professional development. In addition, the designs had a high level of coherence with other reform activities and with local standards. The main difference among the designs was in the roles of teachers in designing, adopting, or adapting curriculum materials. Evidence from teacher survey and observation data indicated that all programs had positive impacts on how teachers planned and enacted teaching for understanding, but differences among programs was more evident in their impacts on instructional planning.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Anderson, R. D. (2002). Reforming science teaching: What research says about inquiry. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(1), 1–12. doi:10.1023/A:1015171124982.
Atkin, J. M., & Black, P. (2003). Inside science education reform: A history of curricular and policy change. New York: Teachers College Press.
Blumenfeld, P., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3&4), 369–398. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep2603&4_8.
Bodilly, S. J. (1998). Lessons from new American schools’ scale-up phase. Santa Monica: RAND.
Boone, W. J., & Kahle, K. B. (1998). Student perceptions of instruction, peer interest, and adult support for middle school science: Differences by race and gender. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 4, 333–340.
Brown, J. L. (2004). Making the most of understanding by design. Washington, DC: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Bybee, R. (1993). Reforming science education: Social perspectives and personal reflections. New York: Teachers College Press.
Coburn, C. E. (2001). Collective sensemaking about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(2), 145–170. doi:10.3102/01623737023002145.
Coburn, C. E. (2004). Beyond decoupling: Rethinking the relationship between the institutional environment and the classroom. Sociology of Education, 77(3), 211–244.
Cohen, D. K., & Hill, H. C. (2001). Learning policy: When state education reform works. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Cohen, D. K., McLaughlin, M. W., & Talbert, J. E. (1993). Teaching for understanding: Challenges for policy and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Correnti, R., & Rowan, B. (2007). Opening up the black box: Literacy instruction in schools participating in three comprehensive school reform programs. American Educational Research Journal, 44(2), 298–338. doi:10.3102/0002831207302501.
Crawford, B. (2000). Embracing the essence of inquiry: New roles for science teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 916–937. doi:10.1002/1098-2736(200011)37:9<916::AID-TEA4>3.0.CO;2-2.
Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920. New York: Teachers College Press.
Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: Explaining an apparent paradox. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813–834. doi:10.3102/00028312038004813.
Davis, E. A., & Krajcik, J. (2005). Designing educative curriculum materials to promote teacher learning. Educational Researcher, 34(3), 3–14. doi:10.3102/0013189X034003003.
Desimone, L. M., Porter, A. C., Garet, M. S., Yoon, K. S., & Birman, B. F. (2002). Effects of professional development on teachers’ instruction: Results from a three-year longitudinal study. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(2), 81–112. doi:10.3102/01623737024002081.
Ericcson, K. A., & Simon, H. A. (1993). Protocol analysis: Verbal reports as data (revised ed.). Cambridge: MIT Press.
Fishman, B. J., Marx, R. W., Best, S., & Tal, R. (2003). Linking teacher and student learning to improve professional development in systemic reform. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(6), 643–658. doi:10.1016/S0742-051X(03)00059-3.
Gardner, H., & Dyson, V. (1994). Teaching for understanding in the disciplines and beyond. Teachers College Record, 96(2), 198–218.
Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L. M., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945. doi:10.3102/00028312038004915.
Gess-Newsome, J. (1999). Secondary teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about subject matter and their impact on instruction. In J. Gess-Newsome & L. M. Lederman (Eds.), Pedagogical content knowledge and science education (pp. 51–94). Boston: Kluwer.
Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 8(3/4), 381–391. doi:10.1080/135406002100000512.
Haney, J. J., & Lumpe, A. T. (1995). A teacher professional development framework guided by reform policies, teachers’ needs, and research. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 6(4), 1573–1847. doi:10.1007/BF02614642.
Hill, H. C., Rowan, B., & Ball, D. L. (2005). Effects of teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 42(2), 371–406. doi:10.3102/00028312042002371.
Jeanpierre, B., Oberhauser, K., & Freeman, C. (2005). Characteristics of professional development that effect change in secondary science teachers’ classroom practices. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(6), 668–690. doi:10.1002/tea.20069.
Johnson, C. C. (2007). Whole-school collaborative sustained professional development and science teacher change: Signs of progress. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18(4), 1573–1847. doi:10.1007/s10972-007-9043-x.
Kubitskey, B., & Fishman, B. J. (2006). A role for professional development in sustainability: Linking the written curriculum to enactment. In S. A. Barab, K. E. Hay, & D. T. Hickey (Eds.), Proceedings of the 7th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (Vol. 1, pp. 363–369). Mahwah: Erlbaum.
Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. C. (2001). Teachers caught in the action: Professional development that matters. New York: Teachers College Press.
Linn, M. C., Songer, N. B., Lewis, E. L., & Stern, J. (1993). Using technology to teach thermodynamics: Achieving integrated understanding. In D. L. Ferguson (Ed.), Advanced educational technologies for mathematics and science (pp. 5–60). New York: Springer.
Lipsey, M. W., & Cordray, D. S. (2000). Evaluation methods for social intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 345–375. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.345.
Lotter, C., Harwood, W. S., & Bonner, J. J. (2006). Overcoming a learning bottleneck: Inquiry professional development for secondary science teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 17(3), 185–216. doi:10.1007/s10972-005-9002-3.
Loucks-Horsley, S., & Matsumoto, C. (1999). Research on professional development for teachers of mathematics and science: The state of the scene. School Science and Mathematics, 99(5), 258–271.
Loucks-Horsley, S., Hewson, P. W., Love, N., & Stiles, K. E. (1998). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Lumpe, A., Haney, J., & Czerniak, C. (2000). Assessing teachers’ beliefs about their science teaching context. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 275–292. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(200003)37:3<275::AID-TEA4>3.0.CO;2-2.
Marek, E. A., & Methven, S. B. (1991). Effects of the learning cycle upon student and classroom teacher performance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 28(1), 41–53. doi:10.1002/tea.3660280105.
Patton, M. Q. (1979). Evaluation of program implementation. In L. Sechrest (Ed.), Evaluation Studies Review Annual (Vol. 4). Newbury Park: Sage.
Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J., Yamaguchi, R., & Gallagher, L. P. (2007). What makes professional development effective? Strategies that foster curriculum implementation. American Educational Research Journal, 44(4), 921–958.
Penuel, W. R., & Gallagher, L. P. (2008). Comparing three approaches to preparing teachers to teach for deep understanding in Earth science: Short-term impacts on teachers and teaching practice. Menlo Park: SRI International.
Penuel, W. R., & Means, B. (2004). Implementation variation and fidelity in an inquiry science program: An analysis of GLOBE data reporting patterns. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(3), 294–315.
Penuel, W. R., Shear, L., Korbak, C., & Sparrow, E. (2005). The roles of regional partners in supporting an international Earth science education program. Science Education, 89(6), 956–979.
Radford, D. L. (1998). Transferring theory into practice: A model for professional development for science education reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(1), 73–88. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(199801)35:1<73::AID-TEA5>3.0.CO;2-K.
Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Rivet, A. (2006). Using transformative research to explore congruencies between science reform and urban schools. In S. A. Barab, K. E. Hay, & D. T. Hickey (Eds.), Proceedings of the 7th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 578–584). Mahwah: Erlbaum.
Rossi, P. H., Freeman, H. E., & Lipsey, M. W. (2004). Evaluation: A systematic approach (7th ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.
Rowan, B., & Miller, R. J. (2007). Organizational strategies for promoting instructional change: Implementation dynamics in schools working with comprehensive school reform providers. American Educational Research Journal, 44(2), 252–297. doi:10.3102/0002831207302498.
Scheirer, M. A. (1994). Designing and using process evaluation. In J. S. Wholey, H. P. Hatry, & K. E. Newcomer (Eds.), Handbook of practical program evaluation (pp. 40–68). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schneider, R. M., & Krajcik, J. (2002). Supporting science teacher learning: The role of educative curriculum materials. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(3), 221–245. doi:10.1023/A:1016569117024.
Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
Singer, J. E., Krajcik, J., Marx, R. W., & Clay-Chambers, J. (2000). Constructing extended inquiry projects: Curriculum materials for science education reform. Educational Psychologist, 35(3), 165–179. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3503_3.
Spillane, J. P. (1999). External reform initiatives and teachers’ efforts to reconstruct their practice: The mediating role of teachers’ zones of enactment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31, 143–175. doi:10.1080/002202799183205.
Spillane, J. P. (2004). Standards deviation: How schools misunderstand education policy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Spillane, J. P., & Jennings, N. E. (1997). Aligned instructional policy and ambitous pedagogy: Exploring instructional reform from the classroom perspective. Teachers College Record, 98, 449–481.
Supovitz, J. A., & May, H. (2004). A study of the links between implementation and effectiveness of the America’s Choice comprehensive school reform design. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk JESPAR, 9(4), 389–419. doi:10.1207/s15327671espr0904_4.
Supovitz, J. A., & Turner, H. M. (2000). The effects of professional development on science teaching practices and classroom culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(2), 963–980. doi:10.1002/1098-2736(200011)37:9<963::AID-TEA6>3.0.CO;2-0.
Treagust, D. F., Jacobowitz, R., Gallagher, J. L., & Parker, J. (2001). Using assessment as a guide in teaching for understanding: A case study of a middle school science class learning about sound. Science Education, 85(2), 137–157. doi:10.1002/1098-237X(200103)85:2<137::AID-SCE30>3.0.CO;2-B.
Tushnet, N. C., Millsap, M. A., Abdullah-Welsh, N., Brigham, N., Cooley, E., Elliott, J., et al. (2000). Final report on the evaluation of the National Science Foundation’s Instructional Materials Development Program. San Francisco: WestEd.
Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
van Driel, J. H., Beijaard, D., & Verloop, N. (2001). Professional development and reform in science education: The role of teachers’ practical knowledge. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(2), 137–158. doi:10.1002/1098-2736(200102)38:2<137::AID-TEA1001>3.0.CO;2-U.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Wiske, S. (1997). Teaching for understanding: Linking research with practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
About this article
Cite this article
Penuel, W.R., McWilliams, H., McAuliffe, C. et al. Teaching for Understanding in Earth Science: Comparing Impacts on Planning and Instruction in Three Professional Development Designs for Middle School Science Teachers. J Sci Teacher Educ 20, 415–436 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-008-9120-9
- Teaching for understanding
- Professional development
- Earth science
- Middle school