New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Continuous Professional Development in Science Education: A Reconceptualisation

Nicola Broderick, Lecturer in Science Education, DCU (Ireland)


Recent educational reform and policy at a global level have emphasised the importance of professional development (PD) in enhancing the standard of science teaching and pupil learning outcomes (DES, 2016; Hazelkorn, 2015; Lederman 2007; Rocard et al., 2008).  There is a growing body of international and national research highlighting concerns regarding the teaching and learning of science in primary schools (Martin et al., 2016; Murphy et al., 2011; Smith, 2015). Many have identified primary teachers’ confidence, and competence in teaching science and insufficient levels of scientific content knowledge as challenges teachers face (Murphy & Smith, 2012; Murphy et al., 2015; O’ Keefe, 2007; Smith, 2015). Teachers with low confidence and/or poor science content knowledge tend to have difficulties with the constructivist and inquiry-based nature of primary science resulting in reliance on textbooks and traditional didactic approaches to teaching science (Varley et al., 2008). Infrequent engagement with inquiry approaches have implications for declining pupil interest and attitudes in science (DES, 2012; Martin at al., 2016; PISA, 2015; Smith, 2015). The underlying assumption is that effective PD will improve teachers’ pedagogical capacities, leading to more effective teaching, and more importantly enhance pupil learning outcomes (Avalos, 2011; Murphy et al., 2015; Smith, 2014). For PD to be effective, it is imperative that teacher educators develop a strong knowledge base of the salient factors that influence PD. This paper will examine PD for in-service teachers in science education. It comprises a narrative writing inquiry which draws upon a specific ‘critical incident’ that shaped the author’s experience of PD from the position of teacher educator (LaBoskey, 2004; Tripp, 2012).Teachers’ motivation to participate and engage in PD is considered. This leads to an examination of the characteristics of effective PD and how they align with teacher learning theory. Implementing new instructional practices to improve classroom practice and enhance pupil learning often pose difficulties for teachers; thus the importance of sustained support and motivation throughout PD is considered. The paper concludes by presenting an illustrative model of effective PD in science education drawing on motivational factors, teacher learning theory, and the change process.

KeywordsContinuous Professional Development, Science Education, Teacher Education;


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