Lotter, Harwood, Bonner - JRST 2007

The influence of core teaching conceptions on teachers' use of inquiry teaching practices
© 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 1318-1347, 2007

Christine Lotter 1 *, William S. Harwood 2, J. José Bonner 3
1University of South Carolina, Instruction and Teacher Education, 820 South Main Street, Wardlaw 223, Columbia, SC 29208
2University of Northern Iowa, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Cedar Falls, IA 50614
3Indiana University, Department of Biology, Bloomington, IN 47405
email: Christine Lotter (lotter@gwm.sc.edu)
*Correspondence to Christine Lotter, University of South Carolina, Instruction and Teacher Education, 820 South Main Street, Wardlaw 223, Columbia, SC 29208.

Funded by:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Grant Number: 52003732
a Maris M. Proffitt & Mary Higgins Proffitt Endowment Grant; Grant Number: 2940215

This article investigates three teachers' conceptions and use of inquiry-based instructional strategies throughout a professional development program. The professional development program consisted of a 2-week summer inquiry institute and research experience in university scientists' laboratories, as well as three academic year workshops. Insights gained from an in-depth study of these three secondary teachers resulted in a model of teacher conceptions that can be used to direct future inquiry professional development. Teachers' conceptions of inquiry teaching were established through intensive case-study research that incorporated extensive classroom observations and interviews. Through their participation in the professional development experience, the teachers gained a deeper understanding of how to implement inquiry practices in their classrooms. The teachers gained confidence and practice with inquiry methods through developing and presenting their institute-developed inquiry lessons, through observing other teachers' lessons, and participating as students in the workshop inquiry activities. Data analysis revealed that a set of four core conceptions guided the teachers' use of inquiry-based practices in their classrooms. The teachers' conceptions of science, their students, effective teaching practices, and the purpose of education influenced the type and amount of inquiry instruction performed in the high school classrooms. The research findings suggest that to be successful inquiry professional development must not only teach inquiry knowledge, but it must also assess and address teachers' core teaching conceptions.