Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Science Teaching


John W. Tillotson


professional development, reform-based science teaching, secondary science, teacher preparation, teacher socialization

Subject Categories



The purpose of this two-phase, sequential explanatory mixed-methods study was to understand and explain the variation seen in secondary science teachers' enactment of reform-based instructional practices. Utilizing teacher socialization theory, this mixed-methods analysis was conducted to determine the relative influence of secondary science teachers' characteristics, backgrounds and experiences across their teacher development to explain the range of teaching practices exhibited by graduates from three reform-oriented teacher preparation programs. Data for this study were obtained from the Investigating the Meaningfulness of Preservice Programs Across the Continuum of Teaching (IMPPACT) Project, a multi-university, longitudinal study funded by NSF.

In the first quantitative phase of the study, data for the sample (N=120) were collected from three surveys from the IMPPACT Project database. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to examine the separate as well as the combined influence of factors such as teachers' personal and professional background characteristics, beliefs about reform-based science teaching, feelings of preparedness to teach science, school context, school culture and climate of professional learning, and influences of the policy environment on the teachers' use of reform-based instructional practices. Findings indicate three blocks of variables, professional background, beliefs/efficacy, and local school context added significant contribution to explaining nearly 38% of the variation in secondary science teachers' use of reform-based instructional practices. The five variables that significantly contributed to explaining variation in teachers' use of reform-based instructional practices in the full model were, university of teacher preparation, sense of preparation for teaching science, the quality of professional development, science content focused professional, and the perceived level of professional autonomy.

Using the results from phase one, the second qualitative phase selected six case study teachers based on their levels of reform-based teaching practices to highlight teachers across the range of practices from low, average, to high levels of implementation. Using multiple interview sources, phase two helped to further explain the variation in levels of reform-based practices. Themes related to teachers' backgrounds, local contexts, and state policy environments were developed as they related to teachers' socialization experiences across these contexts. The results of the qualitative analysis identified the following factors differentiating teachers who enacted reform-based instructional practices from those who did not: 1) extensive science research experiences prior to their preservice teacher preparation; 2) the structure and quality of their field placements; 3) developing and valuing a research-based understanding of teaching and learning as a result of their preservice teacher preparation experiences; 4) the professional culture of their school context where there was support for a high degree of professional autonomy and receiving support from "educational companions" with a specific focus on teacher pedagogy to support student learning; and 5) a greater sense of agency to navigate their districts' interpretation and implementation of state polices. Implications for key stakeholders as well as directions for future research are discussed.


Open Access

Included in

Education Commons