Project Overview

Roy J. Carver LogoThe purpose of this project is to investigate how and why elementary teachers use existing science curriculum materials to plan and engage in effective science teaching, as well as promote students’ science learning. The National Science Education Standards and the Iowa CORE curriculum standards emphasize engaging students in the practices of science, or inquiry-based science, to best support their science learning. However, elementary teachers face many challenges to engaging their students in inquiry-based science. Professional development efforts must be designed that help elementary teachers engage in reform-oriented, inquiry-based science teaching. To meet this need, the PIESC3 (Promoting Inquiry-based Elementary Science through Collaborative Curriculum Co-construction – pronounced “pisces”) professional development program has been implemented in the Davenport Community School District (DCS), one of Iowa’s largest high-needs school districts, since the 2010-2011 academic year. The PIESC3 program has engaged 21 elementary teachers in evaluation, planning, and instruction to learn about the teaching and learning of science as inquiry as articulated in the Iowa CORE and National Science Education Standards, to use this knowledge to learn how to feasibly adapt existing, district-specific science curricular resources to design inquiry-based planned instruction, analyze their own teaching and evidence of student learning, and to use this evidence to better support students’ science learning through engagement in scientific inquiry. We employ a quasi-experimental, non-randomized two group pre-test/post-test repeated measures design, as well as in-depth case studies, over three years to investigate the effectiveness of the PIESC3 program and to learn more about how elementary teachers use existing science curriculum materials to plan and engage in inquiry-based science. Findings from project research have illustrated the dimensions of inquiry-based science in which elementary teachers engage students in the classroom and their reasoning for engaging students in inquiry in the ways that they do (e.g., Forbes, Biggers, & Zangori, in press; Zangori, Forbes, & Biggers, 2012). These empirical results have important implications for the development of elementary science curriculum materials, science professional development for elementary teachers, and the preparation of preservice elementary teachers through formal, university-based teacher education. This research builds upon past research on elementary science teaching and learning, leverages funding from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust and other sources, and supports the establishment of a partnership between the UI, DCS, and Mississippi Bend AEA that will serve as a foundation for future externally-funded programs designed to improve the teaching and learning of science in Iowa’s schools.