Teacher Characteristics and Student Learning in Secondary Science Documents

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Teacher Characteristics and Student Learning in Secondary Science 

written by Eleanor W. Close

The question of how best to prepare and support K-12 science teachers for reformed teaching is a critical and unresolved issue. As described in the research review in chapter 2, many intermediate steps have been examined and documented; however, the link between teacher characteristics and student learning in science is not well studied. This study contributes to the knowledge base for the design of effective professional development for teachers of science.

This study examined relationships between teacher characteristics and student learning gains in secondary science. Participants consisted of 15 teachers and 1,250 students in 8th grade public school science classrooms in a large western Washington school district. Student scores on the science portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and student pretest-posttest gain on researcher-designed content tests were used to quantify student learning. The Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Physical Science (EBAPS) and a Teacher Questionnaire were used to collect information about teacher characteristics.

A hierarchical multiple regression analysis was conducted to predict student gain scores from student WASL scores and teacher characteristics. WASL score accounted for a significant amount of the gain variability. Teacher-related measures accounted for a small but statistically significant proportion of the student gain after controlling for student WASL score. The full model accounted for ~11% of the criterion variance.

Consistent with previous research, relationships between student learning and individual teacher characteristics were mixed. Teacher years of experience and teacher combined coursework were negatively correlated with student gain score. Teacher EBAPS score was positively correlated with student gain score.

Further analysis examined relationships between teacher EBAPS score and teacher years of experience and combined coursework. No significant correlation was found.

Published January 1, 2009
Last Modified March 18, 2016

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