Author

David Nelson

Date of Award

2006

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Teaching

Advisor

John Thompson

Second Committee Member

Eric Pandiscio

Third Committee Member

Michael Wittmann

Abstract

The National Science Education Standards and Maine Learning Results outline a comprehensive program for facilitating children’s learning of basic concepts in force and motion. The program has goals for children as early as Kindergarten, but assumes the teachers in our primary schools are prepared to handle these concepts. Unfortunately our elementary school teacher’s training programs do not require in-depth instruction in the sciences, and many of our elementary school teachers have never received instruction in basic physics. Lacking mastery of the content, many in-service teachers doubt their ability to present science material in their classrooms, and sometimes avoid the material all together. While standard summer coursework is available that might improve teacher understanding of the concepts, it is difficult for many teachers to commit to a summer long program. Short courses and workshops are offered as alternatives in a number of venues that try to address these deficiencies. This research project investigates whether a concentrated workshop format can have a lasting impact on in-service teacher conceptual understanding and self-efficacy as they relate to force and motion. A concentrated one-week workshop featuring inquiry-based learning and including epistemological topics was developed and administered during the summer of 2005. The Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE) was used to measure gain in conceptual understanding, and the Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX) and Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI) were used to evaluate teacher attitudes, beliefs, and expectations relating to their own physics understanding and its role in their classrooms. While improvement was evident in both the FMCE and MPEX results, it is not clear that the amount of improvement produced is sufficient to fully prepare in-service teachers to facilitate learning in this area.

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