Author

Nancy Nasr

Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth Currin

Abstract

This qualitative action research study examines my resistance to implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in my high school chemistry classroom, which is not uncommon among teachers. This resistance highlighted my conflicting epistemological beliefs, which, as a product of my own experiences as a student, among other factors, are deep-rooted and difficult to change. The dilemma for many science teachers, like me, is that the NGSS approaches the teaching of science in a constructivist manner, which attempts to move science instruction away from traditional pedagogies. Science teachers whose epistemological beliefs are rooted in traditional pedagogies may understand the inherent benefits of constructivist inquiry in the classroom, but struggle with how to implement it.

From data collected through observations, student artifacts, focus group interviews, and a personal teaching journal, this qualitative action research study investigated how NGSS-aligned learning tasks impacted my students’ engagement and conceptual understanding, as well as my epistemological beliefs. While I found that a complete epistemological shift in favor of constructivist pedagogies was not possible without the use of traditional pedagogies to support the transition, I also learned that student struggle during constructivist learning tasks still results in demonstrated conceptual understanding and engagement. These findings have significant implications for both science teachers and science teacher educators as the findings may inspire those science teachers wishing to enact epistemological change in favor of constructivism confidently and strategically, as well as improve science methods courses by establishing the need to expose pre-service teachers to the constructivist theory of learning and provide opportunities for them to practice using constructivist methods to prepare for 21st-century science teaching. Serving as a model for these audiences, my study illustrates a greater transition toward constructivist pedagogies, and an improved understanding of the true meaning of constructivist student learning in the context of the NGSS.

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