The Western Seaboard Science Project: An Innovative Model of Professional Development to Enhance the Teaching and Learning of Primary Science
Smith, Gregory (2012) The Western Seaboard Science Project: An Innovative Model of Professional Development to Enhance the Teaching and Learning of Primary Science. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
the quality of teaching is a very significant factor in influencing pupils' attitudes and interest to learn primary science. However, a large body of research literature shows that many lacking the confidence and competence to teach science effectively. In many countries professional development of teachers has been seen as a key strategy to improving teacher model of professional development has been shown to have little effect on teaching or learning back in the classroom. In response to this, a model of professional development was developed for this study based on the characteristics of effective professional development from a wide body of contemporary literature. Key features of the model included: active participation, meaningful collaboration, continuity, and feedback. This study was concerned with investigating the influence of a two year long their confidence science. The specific aims of the study were to: investigate the extent to which a professional development programme designed in the light of recent research findings can bring about improvements in confidence, competence and attitudes among primary teachers where the teaching of science is concerned; break down the insulation and isolation teachers experience in their day -to-day professional lives; The research involved 24 teachers and 281 pupils from fifteen small rural primary schools. The study was undertaken using a mixed methods approach. The methods of data collection were pre- and post-intervention questionnaires, semi - structured interviews, and cognitive tests. Findings from this study showed that the participants became substantially more confident and competent in teaching primary science. Most significantly, teachers made dramatic changes in the way they taught science, resulting in their pupils becoming more positive and motivated to learn science. Evidence from the study also showed that the programme made significant inroads into (1) breaking down the traditional culture of teacher isolation and (2) building up a professional learning community. These are important findings that should influence planners of future professional development programmes, especially those programmes being designed for teachers in small rural primary schools. By the end of Year One of the programme, teachers were actively exchanging resources, sharing ideas, engaging in innovative methodologies and pedagogical discussions with their colleagues. The experience from this study suggests that if professional development for teachers in primary science is to be really fruitful it should include the following key features: (1) on- going and long-term support for teachers; (2) emphasis on content and pedagogy; (3) actively engage participants; (4) collaborative in nature; (5) provide feedback and reflection; and (6) have appropriate and systematic procedures for evaluation.
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