Exploring Secondary School Science Teacher Professional Identity: Can it be influenced and reshaped by experiences of professional development programmes?
AbstractInternational test results posed concerns about the future of science education in Canada, the UK, and the USA. Stakeholders such as Let's Talk Science and AMGEN Canada and The Royal Society, UK observed that fewer students were pursuing post-secondary studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields in their countries, compared to their counterparts in China, India and Singapore. These stakeholders contended that science teachers required the agency to enhance their classroom efficacy and to challenge their students to pursue post-secondary studies and careers in STEM related fields. Reform initiatives, including professional development programmes, have been established across western countries to support science teachers' agency to act as change agents. This study was based on two assumptions; first, science teachers need professional development, experiences to shape their professional identity to act as change agents in science education reform, and secondly, science teachers' professional identity may be influenced and reshaped through experiences during professional development. This research explored the influence on secondary school science teachers' professional identity by their experiences of professional development programmes. A methodological approach of hermeneutic phenomenology facilitated the understanding of science teachers' experiences, while a sociocultural theoretical framework based on Wenger's community of practice, underpinned the research. Narrative interviews, semi-structured interviews, and a questionnaire provided evidence from thirteen purposefully selected science teachers in one school board in Canada for this study. Interpretive phenomenological analysis of interviews and qualitative survey analysis of the questionnaire, identified cognitive development, social interactions, emotional changes, and change in beliefs and classroom practice as the science teacher's experiences of their professional development programme. Such experiences are regarded as indicators of influence on professional identity. The cognitive development, social interactions, and emotional changes experienced by the science teachers, are considered as their dimensions of experiences during learning. Although nine science teachers experienced change in their practice, two of the reported change sin their professional beliefs. It is significant that eleven science teachers did not experience a change in their beliefs, despite changes in their classroom practice. The science teachers who did not experience a change in their beliefs were confident of their existing professional identities that influenced their learning and their views regarding changes in their beliefs and practice. It appears that science teachers' prior professional identity was a determining factor in influencing and reshaping their professional identities. Nevertheless, findings from this study imply that, to some extent, science teachers' professional identity was influenced, perhaps not reshaped, by their experiences of their professional development programme. Findings fro my research have implications for science education reform-minded stakeholders and providers of in-service professional development programmes. They would be informed of research on the role of professional identity in professional learning and classroom practice in a climate of science education reform, as well as the role of prior professional identity in such initiatives.
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