Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Science Teacher Decision-Making in a Climate of Heightened Accountability: A Rhizomatic Case Study Analysis of Two Science Departments in New York City
by Purohit, Kiran Dilip, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2017, 267; 10278301
Abstract (Summary)

Secondary science teachers make many daily decisions in the enactment of curriculum. Although curriculum materials are widely available to address science content, practices, and skills, the consideration that goes into deciding how and whether to use such materials is complicated by teachers’ beliefs about science, their understandings of school-level accountability and testing measures, and their perspectives on the adolescent students they teach. This study addresses the need to understand how teachers consider multiple forces in their enactment of science curriculum.

The purpose of this study was to explore the ways that discourses around accountability, science, and science education emerge in the narratives around teachers' decision-making in secondary science classrooms. Using a case study approach, I worked at two school sites with two pairs of science teachers. We established criteria for critical incidents together, then teachers identified critical decision-making moments in their classrooms. We analyzed those incidents together using a consultancy protocol, allowing teachers to focus their thinking on reframing the incidents and imagining other possible outcomes.

Using post-structuralist rhizomatics, I assembled analyses of teachers’ discussions of the critical incidents in the form of dramatization—scenes and monologues. I then developed two major interpretive strands. First, I connected teachers’ sense of having “no time” to blocs of affect tied to larger discourses of national security, teacher accountability, and the joy of scientific discovery. Second, I demonstrated how teachers’ concern in following logical pathways and sequences in science relates to the imposition of accountability measures that echo the outcomes-driven logic of the learning sciences. Across both interpretations, I found accountability to be complex, multidirectional, and unpredictable in how it works on and through teachers as they make decisions.

Research in this area has important practical implications in the fields of professional development, curriculum development, and school change. As more states (including New York) adopt standards derived from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the importance of privileging teachers’ investment and critical decision-making in the process of new curriculum development is vital. I suggest that tools like video-based coaching and consultancy protocol discussions support this kind of thoughtful curricular change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lesko, Nancy L., Mensah, Felicia M.
Commitee: Friedrich, Daniel
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Curriculum and Teaching
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Education, Science education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Accountability, Decision-making, Science curriculum, Science teaching
Publication Number: 10278301
ISBN: 9780355067620
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