chapter  38
26 Pages

Teacher Professional Development in Science

Professional development for science teachers is of considerable current importance. This is an era in which, around the world, a new vision of learner-centered instruction is being developed. This grows out of a major, extended research enterprise over the past quarter-century. The focus of attention on what learners know and can do when they enter classrooms, and how this influences the instruction that they receive, has led to significant advances in our understanding of student learning and the implications this has for teaching. In parallel with these reforms, there has been a major push to develop new curricula and to identify explicit standards that together represent significant changes in what it is that students are expected to learn and do. A third circumstance of considerable importance is the increasing recognition of the systemic nature of the educational enterprise, arising in part from the difficulties experienced by reformers who sought to introduce new curricula and new teaching approaches. Aligning different components of educational systems is not a straightforward matter and has led to the investment of large amounts of resources for systemic reform. A notable example in the United States is the large number of Systemic Initiatives funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) throughout the last decade of the twentieth century (see Chapter 30, this volume): a considerable portion of their budgets funded teacher professional development activities. Another circumstance that has considerable implications for teacher professional development is the growth of more extensive testing of students at all levels. Most, if not all, states in the United States have instituted their own proficiency tests and use these to judge the quality of schools and teachers. Furthermore, the No Child Left Behind legislation in the United States extended these testing requirements throughout the country. In part, these initiatives have been driven by international studies, such as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study and the Programme for International Student Assessment, that have raised issues of national performance. In a number of countries, the perception of inadequate performance has been a driving force for reform.