Investigating the Relationships among Professional Development Strategies, Science Teacher Content Knowledge, Classroom Practice, and Student Learning
AIM: K–8 Science is an MSPRETA designed to add to what the field knows about professional development (PD) strategies for deepening the content knowledge of science teachers, and the relationship between teacher content knowledge, classroom practice, and student achievement. The study documents PD offered to teachers, and measures teacher content knowledge and student learning using rigorously-developed instruments. Component One of AIM is examining the impact of MSP professional development on teacher content knowledge and investigating the relative impacts of different PD approaches. Component Two is exploring the relationships among teacher content knowledge, classroom practices, and student achievement.
A third component was added to examine the impacts of a PD program that incorporates learning theory and lessons learned from past professional development efforts. The PD program, developed for upper-elementary teachers, focuses on ideas within force and motion and has three main foci: (1) deepening teachers’ conceptual understanding of the targeted ideas using a learning theory-based approach; (2) engaging teachers with the content in a way that they can easily take back and apply in the classroom; and (3) developing teacher understanding of why the PD and corresponding classroom materials were developed the way they were. In addition, AIM developed an implementation guide for the materials that is meant to be “educative” and provide on-going support for teachers. Initial results show larger gains in teacher content knowledge than have been observed in comparison PD programs. Data on classroom practices and student achievement are still being collected.