The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

By Kenneth Tobin | Go to book overview

14
Staff Development and the Process of Changing: A Teacher's Emerging Constructivist Beliefs about Learning and Teaching

Francine P. Peterman

The question of why school reforms recur, following a pattern of small successes and overwhelming failures, has been addressed from a range of macro- to micro-perspectives. From the broadest view, Cuban ( 1990) explained these recurring reforms as political reactions to the ebb and flow of public optimism and pessimism about schools' abilities to accommodate shifts in societal values. Sarason ( 1971) explained that a firmly embedded culture of the school--its history, routines, values, attitudes, and beliefs--inhibits lasting change from occurring. While Doyle and Ponder ( 1977) explained that the ecology of the school and, furthermore, the ecology of the classroom, impact the teacher's reconciliation of the intended reform and the perceived classroom realities, Olson ( 1980, 1981) identified the similarities and differences in innovator's and teachers' conceptions of the innovation and its implementation in functioning school and classroom systems as the keys to success and failure. Further, Cohen ( 1988) suggested that changing practice to reflect current constructivist notions of learning is unlikely because social organizations, expectations, and roles inhibit the risk taking, ambiguity, and inquiry required for "adventurous," constructivist teaching and learning.

Staff development is frequently used as a process to promote significant and worthwhile changes. To promote the implementation of constructivist notions in classroom practices through staff development, this chapter was designed to address questions regarding (1) why change is so difficult to accomplish, (2) how constructivist interventions might promote change in practice, (3) how a teacher expresses changes in beliefs throughout the process of changing, and (4) how staff development interventions might be designed for more effectively implementing constructivist practices. For worthwhile and significant change to occur, Richardson ( 1990) identified an interactive approach to staff development that empowers teachers through reflection upon personal, practical, and theoretical frameworks and the activities of

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