Current priorities in formal science education include building strong professional learning communities that foster ongoing professional growth among teachers, teacher leaders, and school administrators. This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a professional development program designed for school district science coordinators. Though these science coordinators typically have some degree of responsibility for supporting science teachers in their school districts, most individuals appointed to these leadership positions have little or no formal preparation for the role. The range of duties assigned to science coordinators varies greatly from district to district, but duties typically include mentoring teachers, selecting curriculum materials, overseeing science supplies and classroom safety, and advocating for science program improvements. The professional development model being designed and developed by this project will be tested by examining impacts of participating science coordinators on science teachers and their students.
The goal of this four-year exploratory study is to determine if a specialized professional development program for district science coordinators can facilitate their growth as instructional leaders and the instructional practices of science teachers of their school districts. More specifically, the project will pursue answers to two research questions:
A design-based research approach will be employed to develop a two-year professional development model having 80 hours of programming during the first year and 30 hours during the second year. Programming will include a blend of face-to-face and online meetings and modules. The mixed-methods research plan will compare teaching and learning outcomes within three groups:
Quantitative data will be gathered through use of instruments that measure how science coordinators develop their knowledge and practices, and how they modify their perspectives as leaders. Observations of the classroom practices of teachers will also be documented. The qualitative research component will include interviews, examination of artifacts, and focus groups.