Influence of Subject Matter Discipline and Science Content Knowledge on National Board Certified Science Teachers' Conceptions, Enactment, and Goals for Inquiry
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The present study investigated differences in the continuing development of National Board Certified Science Teachers' (NBCSTs) conceptions of inquiry across the disciplines of biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics. The central research question of the study was, "How does a NBCST's science discipline (biology, chemistry, earth science, or physics) influence their conceptions, enactment, and goals for inquiry-based teaching and learning?"
A mixed methods approach was used that included an analysis of the National Board portfolio entry, Active Scientific Inquiry, for participants (n=48) achieving certification in the 2007 cohort. The portfolio entry provided detailed documentation of teachers' goals and enactment of an inquiry lesson taught in their classroom. Based on the results from portfolio analysis, participant interviews were conducted with science teachers (n=12) from the 2008 NBCST cohort who represented the science disciplines of biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics. The interviews provided a broader range of contexts to explore teachers' conceptions, enactment, and goals of inquiry. Other factors studied were disciplinary differences in NBCSTs' views of the nature of science, the relation between their science content knowledge and use of inquiry, and changes in their conceptions of inquiry as result of the NB certification process. Findings, based on a situated cognitive framework, suggested that differences exist between biology, chemistry, and earth science teachers' conceptions, enactment, and goals for inquiry. Further, individuals teaching in more than one discipline often held different conceptions of inquiry depending on the discipline in which they were teaching.
Implications for the research community include being aware of disciplinary differences in studies on inquiry and exercising caution in generalizing findings across disciplines. In addition, teachers who teach in more than one discipline can highlight the contextual and culturally based nature of teachers' conceptions of inquiry. For the education community, disciplinary differences should be considered in the development of curriculum and professional development. An understanding of disciplinary trends can allow for more targeted and relevant representations of inquiry.