How context impacts elementary teachers' decisions about science instruction
Wenner, Julianne Amy
MetadataShow full item record
Researchers have noted that most elementary science is didactic, lecture-based, worksheet-oriented, and often includes teaching to the test. This situation begs the question: Is this type of instruction a function of the teachers themselves, or is this type of instruction a result of the context in which they teach, or both? This question indicates that elementary science education researchers need to look beyond the ‘usual suspects’ of content knowledge and attitudes and consider context as a much bigger player. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the ways in which context impacts how three elementary teachers at Rosa Parks Elementary Charter School (RPECS) teach science in their classroom. Using a Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) lens, this study seeks to view teachers as components of a larger system and examines the contradictions present in these systems. Findings indicate that some components of activity systems are more influential than others; how teachers translate systemic components into instructional practice is dependent upon teachers’ internal contexts; there were some contradictions all teachers in this study had in common that are most likely consistent with those of elementary teachers across the country; and while most contradictions led to more tension, teachers can and do find ways to push for growth within their systems. These findings have implications for elementary school administrators, pre-service teacher educators, and policymakers in terms of professional development, administrational support, arming teachers with productive ways to cope with the realities of today’s elementary schools, and the need to bridge the gap between policymakers and teachers to better understand the enactment of ‘one-size-fits-all’ reform initiatives.