Curriculum-Dependent and Curriculum-Independent Factors in Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Adaptation of Science Curriculum Materials for Inquiry-Based Science

Feb. 15, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 24, No. 1, p. 179–197, (February, 2013).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author investigates the role curriculum-dependent and curriculum-independent factors play in influencing preservice elementary teachers’ adaptation of science curriculum materials to foster inquiry-based science.

This article addresses the following research questions:
1.Do the inquiry-orientations of science curriculum materials influence the adaptations preservice elementary teachers make to them to develop more inquiry-based science lessons?
2. What curriculum-independent factors help explain the ways in which preservice elementary teachers adapt science curriculum materials to develop more inquiry-based science lessons?

This nested mixed methods study involves two components: quantitative analysis of science lesson plans constructed by the preservice teachers in two sections of the course and in-depth case studies of six preservice teachers from the larger group.

This study took place in a one-semester elementary science teaching methods course in an undergraduate teacher education program at a large, Midwestern university.
The participants were 46 preservice elementary teachers, who enrolled the course to develop an understanding of inquiry-based science teaching and learning.


The findings suggest that the initial inquiry-orientations of science curriculum materials do not significantly influence preservice elementary teachers’ adaptation of them.
These findings suggest that while preservice elementary teachers are capable of adapting science lesson plans to make them more inquiry-based, an individual teacher may be more or less inclined to engage in adaptive processes based on other factors beyond how inquiry-based a science lesson plan is to begin with.
They therefore reinforce and further illustrate the complexities faced by preservice elementary teachers learning to engage young learners in reform-minded, inquiry-based science, particularly in regard to one crucial domain of professional practice— curriculum planning.

In addition, the findings provide evidence that preservice elementary teachers are positively inclined toward the adaptation of science curriculum materials.
They therefore help explain how preservice teachers employ their personal resources to critique and adapt science curriculum materials and lend support to a growing body of evidence that preservice elementary teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, orientations, and identities are not substantial barriers to their active use and adaptation of science curriculum materials to promote students’ science learning.

Furthermore, these findings illustrate the critical role that contextual factors in the preservice teachers’ elementary school settings played in influencing their curriculum adaptation.
The affordances and constraints experienced by the preservice teachers here are indicative of those faced by inservice elementary teachers on a day-to-day basis.
These findings highlight the ongoing disconnect between two critical contexts—university-based methods courses and elementary classrooms—in which preservice teachers learn to engage in the professional practices of teaching.


Findings from this study have important implications for science teacher education.
First, they provide evidence for the importance of practice-based teacher education programs that follow clinical models of professional preparation and emphasize professional practice. Such programs must emphasize curriculum materials use in ways that afford preservice elementary teachers opportunities to articulate their ideas about inquiry-based teaching and learning.

Second, field experiences are critical components of teacher education programs, particularly those designed to be grounded in professional practice.

Updated: Oct. 05, 2014