Birds of a Feather? Comparing Teacher Beliefs About Student Knowledge Construction Within a Suburban High School Science Department in Hunterdon County, New Jersey

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Teachers’ individual beliefs regarding the value of the academic material they teach, the nature of the subject, how they should teach it, as well as their assumptions regarding students, classrooms, instructional materials, the nature of learning, and how students construct knowledge can all have considerable influence over their teaching practices and effectiveness in the classroom. To become proficient in effective scientific inquiry, students must be paired with teachers who believe in the benefits of scientific inquiry and the inquiry teaching method and who are confident in their ability to teach using inquiry-based instructional methodologies. In this quantitative study, the beliefs held by a group of 11 experienced high school science teachers, charged with delivering an inquiry-oriented science curriculum, were examined to determine whether they preferred inquiry-oriented classroom activities over more traditional teacher directed non-inquiry activities. To measure each participant’s beliefs quantitatively regarding the efficacy of specific inquiry-oriented, neutral, and non-inquiry student activities, this study made use of the ɣ-version of the Inquiry Teaching Belief (ITB) instrument developed and validated by researchers William Harwood, John Hansen, and Christine Lotter (2006). Statistical analysis was used to compare the mean distance measures taken from each participant’s ITB model to identify their preference for activity types. The findings of this study indicated that although the participants did not share specific preferences for individual classroom practices, they did, as a group, share a measurable and statistically significant preference for inquiry-oriented activities over non-inquiry activities. This finding is significant in that it demonstrates there is alignment between teacher beliefs held by this group of teachers and the design of the curriculum at the high school where they work.

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  • 02/23/2024
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