Nature of science instruction and peer coaching
Sell, Cary Waite
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For science teachers to be able to teach in the manner that is being called for in current reform documents such as the Next Generation Science Standards, they should have knowledge of the nature of science (NOS) and knowledge of how to incorporate NOS concepts into their classroom practice. Designing professional development programs that provide the necessary structure for teachers to gain knowledge of NOS and gain the knowledge necessary to teach NOS is an important task for teacher educators. This study incorporates peer coaching, as part of a community of practice, into such a professional development to determine its efficacy as a support system for developing knowledge of NOS. In an embedded mixed methods study design which made use of cross case analysis, five secondary science teachers from a suburban high school experienced a 15-week professional development program, utilizing peer coaching as a support system, to help them develop knowledge of NOS and the skills to teach NOS. The VNOS-C was administered to participants prior to and also after the program. VNOS-C data was quantized for pre/post comparisons. Qualitative data (e.g. interviews, observations, artifacts) was used to determine the efficacy of the different aspects of the PD program. Using the Wilcoxon Ranked Sum test, a significant positive change (p<.05) was found in the VNOS-C results when compared pre/post. Qualitative analysis revealed that along with professional reading and reflecting as a group on what was being learned, a multi-faceted one-on-one relationship resulting from peer coaching was perceived by the participants as being an important support in helping them develop knowledge of NOS and skills to teach NOS. The results suggested that inclusion of peer coaching as part of a community of practice would be a beneficial addition to PD for in-service teachers learning NOS concepts. Results also suggested that more study is needed regarding what factors, such as science discipline, may influence how teachers internalize NOS concepts.