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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

High School Science Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices for Scientific Literacy During Enactment of a Citizen Science
by Blewitt, Maria R., Ed.D., University of Massachusetts Lowell, 2020, 135; 27961407
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to investigate the beliefs and practices about scientific literacy of high school science teachers who used a citizen science project in their classrooms. Scientific literacy was defined as socio-scientific issues, inquiry, and nature of science understandings. The research question guiding the study was “Do high school science teachers’ instructional practices reflect their beliefs about scientific literacy in the context of a citizen science project?” The study was conducted using a multi-case study methodology and focused ethnographic techniques with three teacher participants who used the Harvard Forest Schoolyard citizen science projects.

Data was collected to determine teacher beliefs about scientific literacy. Key belief findings were (a) teachers valued scientific literacy, even though they did not define or use the term, (b) inquiry as practiced by professional scientists was important for the teachers, indicating reform-minded beliefs, (c) teachers only rarely explicitly discussed nature of science understandings, and (d) all three teachers felt that the socio-scientific issue of climate change was so important to their students that they revisited this issue throughout the school year.

Collection of teacher artifacts, field observation of classes, and post-observation interviews were employed to determine practices. Results showed that the participating teachers aligned their beliefs with their practices. All of the participating teachers used socio-scientific issues in their classroom practice. Teachers used many of the Next Generation Science Standards Science and Engineering Practices in their classrooms, even though they did not explicitly refer to their practices as such. All of the teachers implicitly taught Nature of science to their students. In addition, teachers used the Harvard Forest projects to scaffold other more open-ended projects related to climate change and inquiry.

There are three implications for this study. First, these three teachers chose the Harvard Forest project by their own agency, and all of them developed curriculum around the project and around climate change. Although other research has shown teachers do not in general use reform-minded practices in their classrooms (Capps & Crawford, 2013) and perceive themselves to have more limited control over curriculum (Banilower et al., 2018), the teachers in this study showed tendencies to reform-minded beliefs and practices. Teacher agency may be a key to instituting reform minded practices for inquiry and socio-scientific issues. Second, the current study supports the literature that the research-practice gap for nature of science understandings is wide. Although the teachers in this study had reform-minded beliefs and practices for the scientific literacy practices of inquiry and socio-scientific issues, they did not for nature of science understandings. Finally, this study makes clear that citizen science can be used as a vehicle for the teaching of scientific literacy. However, it is the beliefs and practices of the teacher using the citizen science project that makes teaching scientific literacy in a reform-minded manner possible.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scribner-MacLean, Michelle
Commitee: Greenwood, Anita, Chahine, Iman
School: University of Massachusetts Lowell
Department: Education Administration
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 81/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Science education, Secondary education
Publication Number: 27961407
ISBN: 9798641726014
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