Academic journal article Science Educator

Modeling Instruction: The Impact of Professional Development on Instructional Practices

Academic journal article Science Educator

Modeling Instruction: The Impact of Professional Development on Instructional Practices

Article excerpt


Modeling Instruction holds the potential for transforming science instruction and improving student achievement. Key to the success of Modeling Instruction, however, is the fidelity of implementation of its curriculum. This qualitative study examined the impact of Modeling Instruction professional development on participating teachers' instructional practices. Through classroom observations and interviews, participants provided insight into challenges that impact fidelity of implementation. Participants for whom the professional development had no impact shared an additive view of the professional development along with external challenges that represented a misalignment between participants' goals and those of Modeling Instruction. Participants within the medium impact group held either transformative or additive views of the professional development. These participants described external challenges, which were closely related to their internal challenges. These internal challenges represented a cognitive dissonance that led to low fidelity of implementation. Finally, participants within the high impact group held a combination of both transformative and additive views of the professional development. These participants felt that they were reform-oriented prior to beginning the professional development, although the observations for two of the participants did not reveal this. The remaining participant's observation confirmed that she indeed practiced reform-oriented instruction prior to beginning the professional development, which likely supported her high fidelity of implementation. Implications for professional development providers are offered.

Keywords: modeling instruction, professional development, fidelity to the model, transformative instruction, additive iistruction


Students in the United States continue to lag behind other nations in science achievement. The 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TTMSS) found that the average science scores for U.S. fourth graders were below those of four other nations. This deficit in science achievement was even more severe in eighth grade, with the U.S. scores falling below that of nine other nations. Furthermore, there has been no measurable change in U.S. science scores since 1995 (Gonzales et al., 2008). Similar disappointing results can be found in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (OECD, 2010). At a time when every citizen needs some level of knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (NSF, n.d.), the need to improve student achievement in science is paramount.

'The most direct route to improving mathematics and science achievement for all students is better mathematics and science teaching" (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000, p. 7). Teachers have a clear impact on student learning (Marzano, 2003; Wright, Horn, & Sanders, 1997). A highly effective teacher can result in student gains of a full two months ahead of the students of an average teacher (Sanders & Rivers, 1996). In contrast, an ineffective teacher can result in students gaining little more than that which would have resulted from a year of maturation (Marzano, 2003). This effect on learning is compounded by consecutive years of being with an effective or ineffective teacher (Mendro, Gordon, Gomez, Anderson, & Bembry, 1998). These findings indicate that there is a strong need to aid science teachers in becoming effective.

Professional development is a means for supporting development of effective science teachers and in turn improving student achievement in science (Blank, de las Alas, & Smith, 2008). In their discussion, Blank et al. described key characteristics of effective professional development for science teachers, which included both a focus on content and teacher engagement in learner-centered pedagogies. These two key characteristics are foundational to Modeling Instruction professional development, the professional development under investigation in this research. …

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