Publication Date

5-2014

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

3-31-2014

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Science in STEM Education

Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Louis Nadelson, Ph.D.

Abstract

The underlying beliefs and assumptions that teachers hold regarding how students learn science are likely to influence their classroom instruction in addition to their knowledge of best practices. Currently, inquiry instructional strategies are considered best practices for secondary science education, especially in secondary alternative school settings (Bennett & Park, 2011) where curriculum focuses on both the personal and educational attributes gained by understanding the scientific process as a problem-solving method. However, despite the promotion of inquiry science as standard practice in the alternative classroom, the innate challenges of teaching the alternative student often further complicates the ability of the teacher to provide true inquiry science education. In this investigation, I attempt to examine the beliefs and practices of an alternative high school science teacher. Data collection included teacher interviews, classroom observations, and collection of lesson artifacts. Data was then categorized into four categories: (1) teacher definition of inquiry and the teacher’s level of agreement that inquiry practices are best practices for alternative students, (2) understanding of how students learn best, (3) perceived supports for implementing inquiry, and (4) perceived barriers for implementing inquiry. Interview data and classroom observations of instructional strategies exposed misalignment between teacher’s beliefs regarding inquiry science pedagogy and classroom practice leading to barriers in inquiry science implementation. These misalignments between the teacher’s stated beliefs and instructional practices were related to her perceived areas of weakness, time constraints, and low level of agreement that inquiry instruction is best practice for alternative high school students’ science education.

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