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Student Learning of Measurement and Sound: Examining the Impact of Teacher Professional Development

Huang, Tingho (2009) Student Learning of Measurement and Sound: Examining the Impact of Teacher Professional Development. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The current trends in science education emphasize students' engagement in scientific inquiry and deemphasize memorization of factual knowledge. In response to these trends, reform-based curricula often characterize students engaging in science investigations by listing the detailed steps of scientific practices. Unfortunately, if curricula stress procedures more than conceptual connections, students' understanding of science may be distorted. To ensure the effectiveness of science education reform, this study was designed to bring attention to the differences between the procedures for carrying out investigations and the conceptual knowledge involved in doing the investigations. This study explored teachers' use of a hands-on science curriculum and its impact on student learning using multiple assessments. The relationships between student learning of conceptual or procedural knowledge and teachers' talk about conceptual or procedural knowledge in their classrooms were investigated. Three teachers and their third-grade students participated in this study during the teaching of the measurement and sound units from a inquiry-based curriculum. One teacher had participated in an enhanced professional development workshop but the other two comparison teachers did not. The results showed that students from the three classes displayed similar knowledge of measurement procedures but different conceptual understanding of measurement and sound properties. Results from classroom observations indicated that teachers enacted the curriculum differently by either stressing the procedures of the activities or making conceptual connections between the activities and content knowledge. One of the comparison teachers emphasized the step-by-step procedures for using measurement tools, whereas the other two teachers constantly made reference to related measurement concepts or to everyday experiences. The patterns between student learning and teachers' enactment suggested that higher percentages of conceptual talk in the classroom were associated with better performance on conceptual understanding. The results of this study are consistent with prior research that showed that the implementation of hands-on science curricula could result in limited instruction in science concepts and reduced conceptual learning by their students. These findings suggest that it is important to help teachers focus on conceptual as well as procedural knowledge when using an inquiry-based curriculum to enhance the quality of science education reform.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairForman, Elliceellice@pitt.eduELLICE
Committee MemberJohnson, Carljohnson@pitt.eduJOHNSON
Committee MemberIverson, Janajiverson@pitt.eduJIVERSON
Committee MemberCartier, Jenniferjcartier@pitt.eduJCARTIER
Date: 14 December 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 September 2009
Approval Date: 14 December 2009
Submission Date: 11 December 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Psychology in Education
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: activities-based curriculum; concepts of measurement; concepts of sound; hands-on science curriculum; science education; scientific inquiry; teachers' enactment of curriuclum; student learning outcomes
Other ID:, etd-12112009-012320
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:10
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:54


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