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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Professional development in elementary science teaching using video technology Smith, Murray R.

Abstract

Professional development and in-service training are often used as synonymous terms. However, for the purposes of this study it is useful to stipulate differences. From my experience as science consultant, inservice training has been a short term plan the objective of which is to ask teachers to change their practices after information has been presented to them. Inservice training seems to assume that teachers possess forms of professional knowledge that may lead to changes in their classroom practices. In contrast, professional development maybe defined as a long term support for teachers who seek additional knowledge to guide their classroom practices. If teachers do not possess knowledge that will assist them in classroom practices, and they wish to do so, then the opportunity to acquire this knowledge should be provided. Providing professional development opportunities to teachers in remote schools is a challenge. There are few people offering professional development opportunities and remote schools suffer when in competition with their urban counterparts. Even if experienced personnel were available, the cost of getting teachers to a central site or the presenter to remote schools is more costly than most school divisions can afford. This study explored video technology as a tool to overcome professional development problems of distance, cost and shortage of presenters involved in professional development. Central to understanding how video technology may be used to overcome professional development problems is describing how teachers respond to video technology. Video technology has the capability of presenting actual classroom practices demonstrated in vignettes. The vignettes used in this study demonstrated how teachers engage students in manipulating materials to discover scientific principles. A qualitative design was used to collect data on how teachers responded to these vignettes. The data were collected from four teachers in three phases. These phases were initial interview, classroom observation and follow up interview. During the initial interview each teacher viewed the vignettes and was interviewed. Data were also collected during a classroom visit and follow up interview. Once the data were collected and transcribed they were placed on cards and categorized by topic. The data from one teacher were cross referenced by juxtaposition the data with other data collected from that teacher. Data collected from each teacher were then cross referenced with the other teachers' data using triangulation. The data were then reported using a case study format which allowed this researcher to include his interpretations. Three teachers reported that the vignettes were idealistic, and none of the teachers discussed the main message of the vignettes. Instead the teachers used knowledge suggestive of knowledge categories constructed by Shulman (1987) to interpret the videotaped vignettes. Further, teachers framed problems with their classroom practice after viewing the vignettes. Three teachers framed problems with grouping their students for science and explored aspects of their framed problem. The notion that teachers frame problems and explore different aspects of their problem suggests that teachers engage in a complex mental process called reflection-on-action by Schon (1983, 1987). Since vignettes prompt teachers to critically examine their practices and provide information that is useful to them in solving problems with their practice, vignettes maybe used as a professional development tool in remote schools.

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