Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Making Curriculum Decisions in K-8 Science: The Relationship between Teacher Dispositions and Curriculum Content

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Making Curriculum Decisions in K-8 Science: The Relationship between Teacher Dispositions and Curriculum Content

Article excerpt


This study examined teachers' dispositions toward and choices to teach ocean science using a survey design. A sample of 89 in-service K-8 teachers in the United States reported their (1) feelings of preparedness to teach about ocean literacy and (2) attitudes toward ocean science on three measures. Results of multiple linear regression showed that teachers' dispositions significantly predicted frequency of teaching ocean literacy. Findings indicated that teachers' curriculum decision-making likely reflects feelings of preparedness to teach and attitudes regarding particular topics. Implications for elementary science teacher preparation and professional development are discussed.

© 2022 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/1.3651406]


The National Research Council's Committee on Science Learning (2007) summarizes science as "both a body of knowledge that represents current understanding of natural systems and the process whereby that body of knowledge has been established and is being continually extended, refined, and revised" (p. 26). This definition is for the purpose of discussing the content of science education in kindergarten through eighth (K-8) grades in the United States. Children must learn to know, use, and interpret science understandings, generate evidence and explanations using the process of science, understand the nature of this process, and participate in the process and discourse inherent in this process (Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, 2007). Though few would argue with these summary statements, it is impossible to include, even in a simplified form, the entire body of knowledge and systems and processes of science in K-8 science. This lack of comprehensiveness is due to both the limited time allocated toward science in K-8 education and the enormous depth and breadth of science as a subject of study. Thus, choices must be made regarding which science content is learned, as well as how much time is allocated to particular topics of study. As explained by the National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment [National Research Council (NRQ, 1996], "a curriculum is the way content is organized and presented," but the content of the curriculum "can be organized and presented with many different emphases and perspectives" (p. 2-3).

Decisions regarding the content of the enacted K-8 curriculum occur at a variety of levels in the United States, including national recommendations. For science education, the most influential national recommendations are the benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 1993, 2009) and the National Science Education Standards from the NRC (1996). States, school districts, and localized administrations also make curricular and content decisions. Nonetheless, Porter (2002) named teachers as the "ultimate arbiters" of the content of instruction, deciding, among other things, the time allocated to subjects and the topics covered. Similarly, Remillard (2005) theorized that teachers co-construct the enacted curriculum, engaging in decisions about selecting and creating classroom activities, enacting these activities, responding to students as they interact with these activities, and organizing the content of the curriculum. Thus, "the enacted curriculum is more than what is captured in official policy documents or textbooks" (Remillard, 2005, p. 317).

It is understood that teachers' dispositions toward science and science teaching can affect their decision-making regarding science instruction, overall (Banilower et al, 2006; Banilower et al, 2007). This study is primarily concerned with teachers' decisions about the content within enacted science curriculum. Such decisions could occur within the context of broad, more generalized ideas or narrow, more specific concepts. For example, there is the scale of a subject (e. …

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