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Impacts of Participation in a GK-12 Fellowship Program on Teachers' Conceptions and Use of Inquiry Science

Paper presented by L. Avery, N. Trautmann, and M. Krasny at the Annual Conference of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Philadelphia, PA, March 22-26, 2003

The goal of this study is to determine to what extent participation in partnerships with university scientists and science educators can influence teachers’ conceptions of inquiry and receptivity to use of inquiry-based teaching practices. Through an NSF-funded Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program, we are placing graduate and undergraduate science students in local secondary schools as teaching Fellows to guide student environmental science research and inquiry activities. Our research results indicate that the teachers who are most receptive to student-directed inquiry are those with personal experience conducting scientific research. These teachers have been able to introduce new topics or to teach existing topics in innovative ways with the Fellows’ assistance. However, the teachers for whom the program has had the most dramatic pedagogical benefits are those with no previous experience in scientific research. These teachers have reported gaining skills and/or the confidence needed to implement open-ended student inquiry in their classrooms. The underlying question of our continuing research is how GK-12 programs can best be designed to help classroom teachers successfully make the difficult transition to open-ended, inquiry-based teaching practices.




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