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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Cory T. Forbes.

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Forbes, C.T. Curriculum-Dependent and Curriculum-Independent Factors in Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Adaptation of Science Curriculum Materials for Inquiry-Based Science. J Sci Teacher Educ 24, 179–197 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-011-9245-0

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Keywords

  • Elementary
  • Science
  • Inquiry
  • Curriculum materials