Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 179–197 | Cite as

Curriculum-Dependent and Curriculum-Independent Factors in Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Adaptation of Science Curriculum Materials for Inquiry-Based Science

  • Cory T. ForbesEmail author


In this nested mixed methods study I investigate factors influencing preservice elementary teachers’ adaptation of science curriculum materials to better support students’ engagement in science as inquiry. Analyses focus on two ‘reflective teaching assignments’ completed by 46 preservice elementary teachers in an undergraduate elementary science methods course in which they were asked to adapt existing science curriculum materials to plan and enact inquiry-based science lessons in elementary classrooms. Data analysis involved regression modeling of artifacts associated with these lessons, as well as in-depth, semester-long case studies of six of these preservice teachers. Results suggest that features of the existing science curriculum materials, including measures of how inquiry-based they were, have a relatively small influence on the preservice teachers’ curricular adaptations, while teacher-specific variables account for a much greater percentage of the variance. Evidence from the case studies illustrates the critical impact of the preservice teachers’ field placement contexts as an explanatory, teacher-specific factor in their curricular adaptations. These findings have important implications for science teacher educators and science curriculum developers, in terms of not only better understanding how preservice teachers engage with curriculum materials, but also how programmatic features of teacher education programs influence their ability to do so.


Elementary Science Inquiry Curriculum materials 



This research is funded by a PECASE/CAREER Award grant number REC-0092610 and the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, a CLT grant, number 0227557, both from the National Science Foundation, as well as the University of Michigan Rackham School of Graduate Studies and University of Iowa College of Education. However, any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2011 meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching in Orlando, FL. I appreciate the interest and cooperation of the preservice teachers who made this research possible. I also thank Betsy Davis, Joe Krajcik, Jay Lemke, Michaela Zint, Shawn Stevens, Carrie Beyer, Michele Nelson, Brian Pinney, and Mandy Biggers for their help in thinking about these issues and their thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


  1. Avraamidou, L., & Zembal-Saul, C. (2010). In search of well-started beginning science teachers: Insights from two first-year elementary teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(6), 661–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ball, D. L., & Forzani, F. M. (2009). The work of teaching and challenge of teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 497–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beyer, C., & Davis, E. A. (2009a). Supporting preservice elementary teachers’ critique and adaptation of science lesson plans using educative curriculum materials. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(6), 517–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beyer, C., & Davis, E. A. (2009b). Using educative curriculum materials to support preservice elementary teachers’ curricular planning: A comparison between two different forms of support. Curriculum Inquiry, 39(5), 679–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bodzin, A. M., & Beerer, K. M. (2003). Promoting inquiry-based science instructon: The validation of the science teacher inquiry rubric (STIR). Journal of Elementary Science Education, 15(2), 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, M. (2009). Toward a theory of curriculum design and use: Understanding the teacher-tool relationship. In J. Remillard, B. Herbel-Eisenman, & G. Lloyd (Eds.), Mathematics teachers at work: Connecting curriculum materials and classroom instruction (pp. 17–37). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Bryan, L. A. (2003). Nestedness of beliefs: Examining a prospective elementary teacher’s belief systems about science teaching and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(9), 835–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryan, L. A., & Abell, S. K. (1999). Development of professional knowledge in learning to teach elementary science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36(2), 121–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clift, R. T., & Brady, P. (2005). Research on methods courses and field experiences. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education (pp. 309–424). Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, E. A. (2006). Preservice elementary teachers’ critique of instructional materials for science. Science Education, 90(2), 348–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, E. A., & Smithey, J. (2009). Beginning teachers moving toward effective elementary science teaching. Science Education, 93(4), 745–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dietz, C., & Davis, E. A. (2009). Preservice elementary teachers’ reflection on narrative images of inquiry. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(3), 219–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Enyedy, N., & Goldberg, J. (2004). Inquiry in interaction: How local adaptations of curricula shape classroom communities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(9), 905–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fogleman, J., McNeill, K. L., & Krajcik, J. (2010). Examining the effect of teachers’ adaptations of a middle school science inquiry-oriented curriculum unit on student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(2), 149–169.Google Scholar
  15. Forbes, C. T. (2011). Preservice elementary teachers’ adaptation of science curriculum materials for inquiry-based elementary science. Science Education, 95, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forbes, C.T., Biggers, M., & Zangori, L. (2011). Supporting elementary teachers’ evaluation and adaptation of science curriculum materials: The PIESC3 professional development model. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, Orlando, FL, April 3–6.Google Scholar
  17. Forbes, C. T., & Davis, E. A. (2008a). Exploring preservice elementary teachers’ critique and adaptation of curriculum materials in respect to socioscientific issues. Science & Education, 17(8–9), 829–854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forbes, C. T., & Davis, E. A. (2008b). The development of preservice elementary teachers’ curricular role identity for science teaching. Science Education, 92(5), 909–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forbes, C. T., & Davis, E. A. (2010a). Curriculum design for inquiry: Preservice elementary teachers’ mobilization and adaptation of science curriculum materials. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(7), 365–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Forbes, C. T., & Davis, E. A. (2010b). Beginning elementary teachers’ beliefs about the use of anchoring questions in science: A longitudinal study. Science Education, 94(2), 365–387.Google Scholar
  21. Grossman, P., McDonald, M., Hammerness, K., & Ronfeldt, M. (2008). Dismantling dichotomies in teacher education. In M. Cochran-Smith (Ed.), The handbook of teacher education: A project of the Association of Teacher Educators (pp. 243–248). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  22. Gunckel, K. L. (2011). Mediators of a preservice teacher’s use of the inquiry-application instructional model. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(1), 79–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Haefner, L. A., & Zembal-Saul, C. (2004). Learning by doing? Prospective elementary teachers’ developing understandings of scientific inquiry and science teaching and learning. International Journal of Science Education, 26(13), 1653–1674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Howes, E. V. (2002). Learning to teach science for all in the elementary grades: What do preservice teachers bring? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(9), 845–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kesidou, S., & Roseman, J. (2002). How well do middle school science programs measure up? Findings from Project 2061’s curriculum review. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(6), 522–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Luft, J. A. (1999). Assessing science teachers as they implement inquiry lessons: The extended inquiry observational rubric. Science Educator, 8(1), 9–18.Google Scholar
  27. Magnusson, S., Krajcik, J., & Borko, H. (1999). Nature, sources, and development of pedagogical content knowledge. In J. Gess-Newsome & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Examining pedagogical content knowledge (pp. 95–132). Dordrecht/Boston: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  28. Marx, R., & Harris, C. (2006). No child left behind and science education: Opportunities, challenges, and risks. Elementary School Journal, 106(5), 467–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Metz, K. (2011). Disentangling robust development constraints from the instructionally mutable: Young children’s epistemic reasoning about a study of their own design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 20(11), 50–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Morton, B. A., & Dalton, B. (2007). Changes in instructional hour in four subjects by public school teachers in grades 1 through 4 (NCES 2007-305). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.Google Scholar
  32. National Center for Education Statistics. (2003). Digest of education statistics, 2003. Retrieved Sept 23, 2006, from
  33. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  34. National Research Council. (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards: A guide for teaching and learning. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  35. National Research Council. (2007). Taking science to school: Leaning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  36. National Science Teachers Association. (2003). Standards for science teacher preparation. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.Google Scholar
  37. Patton, M. Q. (2001). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Pintó, R. (2004). Introducing curriculum innovations in science: Identifying teachers’ transformations and the design of related teacher education. Science Education, 89, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Remillard, J. T. (1999). Curriculum materials in mathematics education reform: A framework for examining teachers’ curriculum development. Curriculum Inquiry, 29(3), 315–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Remillard, J. T. (2000). Can curriculum materials support teachers’ learning? Two fourth-grade teachers’ use of a new mathematics text. Elementary School Journal, 100(4), 331–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Remillard, J. T. (2005). Examining key concepts in research on teachers’ use of mathematics curricula. Review of Educational Research, 75(2), 211–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roehrig, G. H., Kruse, R. A., & Kern, A. (2007). Teacher and school characteristics and their influence on curriculum implementation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(7), 883–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schneider, R. M., Krajcik, J., & Blumenfeld, P. (2005). Enacting reform-based science materials: The range of teacher enactments in reform classrooms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(3), 283–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schwarz, C., Gunckel, K., Smith, E., Covitt, B., Enfield, M., Bae, M., et al. (2008). Helping elementary pre-service teachers learn to use science curriculum materials for effective science teaching. Science Education, 92(2), 345–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sim, C. (2006). Preparing for professional experiences—incorporating pre-service teachers as ‘communities of practice’. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 77–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Valencia, S., Place, N., Martin, S., & Grossman, P. (2006). Curriculum materials for elementary reading: Shackles and scaffolds for four beginning teachers. The Elementary School Journal, 107(1), 93–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. Zembal-Saul, C., Blumenfeld, P., & Krajcik, J. (2000). Influence of guided cycles of planning, teaching and reflection on prospective elementary teachers’ science content representations. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(4), 318–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.N252 Lindquist Center, College of EducationUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

Personalised recommendations