Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Science Teaching

Advisor(s)

Joanna O. Masingila

Keywords

Inquiry-based instruction, Nature of Science, Practice of inquiry, professional development workshop, Science teacher education, Understanding

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

High school students in Uganda perform poorly in science subjects despite the Ugandan government’s efforts to train science teachers and build modern science laboratories in many public high schools. The poor performance of students in science subjects has been largely blamed on the inability by many science teachers to teach science through Inquiry-Based Instruction (IBI) to motivate the students to learn science. However, there have been no empirical studies done to establish the factors that influence science teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI in Uganda. Most of the published research on IBI has been conducted in developed countries, where the prevailing contexts are very different from the contexts in developing countries such as Uganda. Additionally, few studies have explored how professional development (PD) training workshops on inquiry and nature of science (NOS) affect chemistry teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI.

My purpose in this multi-case exploratory qualitative study was to explore the effect of a PD workshop on inquiry and NOS on chemistry teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI in Kampala city public schools in Uganda. I also explored the relationship between chemistry teachers’ NOS understanding and the nature of IBI implemented in their classrooms and the internal and external factors that influence teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI. I used a purposive sampling procedure to identify two schools of similar standards from which I selected eight willing chemistry teachers (four from each school) to participate in the study. Half of the teachers (those from School A) attended the PD workshop on inquiry and NOS for six days, while the control group (those from School B) did not. I collected qualitative data through semi-structured interviews, classroom observation, and document analysis. I analyzed these data by structural, conceptual and theoretical coding approach.

I established that all the participating chemistry teachers had insufficient understanding of IBI at the beginning of the study. However, teachers from School A improved their understanding and practice of IBI after attending the PD workshop. I also found that the participating chemistry teachers’ NOS epistemological views were, to some extent, related to the nature of IBI implemented in their classroom. The main internal factors the participating teachers perceived to influence their understanding and practice of IBI were their attitudes and teaching experience, whereas the external factors were lack of motivation, lack of necessary instructional materials, mode of assessment, class size, the nature of pre-service and in-service training, support from peer teachers and limited time in relation to many lessons and much content to cover Based on the above findings, I conclude that the current science teacher training in Uganda may not be improving science teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI, and most of the factors are beyond their control (external). Hence, there is an urgent need for teacher educators and policymakers in Uganda to address the internal and external factors influencing science teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI to improve the teaching and learning of science subjects. Additionally, more quantitative and qualitative studies should be done among teachers of different disciplines to establish how the above factors and others affect teachers’ understanding and practice of IBI in developing countries like Uganda.

Keywords: Science teacher education, Understanding, Practice of inquiry, Inquiry-based instruction, professional development workshop, Nature of Science

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