Insights into Teachersí Experiences Implementing Garden Based Learning: Characterizing the Relationship Between the Teacher and the Curriculum
by Sarah J. Selmer, Melissa J. Luna & James A. Rye ó 2015
Background/Context: This study seeks insights into teachersí experiences implementing Garden-Based Learning (GBL) in an elementary school. The breadth of studies supporting the use of GBL in KĖ8 schools in the United States alongside the paucity of studies specific to teachers' experiences implementing GBL highlights the importance of this work.
Purpose: Our study uses Remillardís framework for characterizing and studying teachersí interactions with curriculum materials specifically in the context of GBL. We believe that exploring the dynamic relationship between teachers and a GBL curriculum may help those involved in supporting teachers in implementing GBL to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the teacher/GBL curriculum relationship. This research examined teachers' GBL implementation experiences in order to answer the following research question: How do we describe and characterize teachersí interactions with GBL curriculum materials?
Research Design: Twenty teachers employed from one elementary school were interviewed using a semistructured task-based protocol resulting in a teacher-created diagram of supports and challenges he/she encountered while implementing GBL over the past year. The diagram was used as a tool to stimulate and access teachersí thinking about these supports and challenges in order to provide insight into the teacher and curricular resources at play when implementing GBL.
Findings/Results: Using a grounded theory analysis of each participantís diagram, we characterized each teacherís participatory relationship with GBL. We found 13% of supports and challenges elicited from all teachers had a teaching and learning focus. On an individual level, supports and challenges had a substantial teaching and learning focus for only two teachers. Thirteen teachers were characterized as having a pragmatic focus. Of the seven teachers characterized to have an experiential focus: supports and challenges focused more so on what students were doing for four teachers and more so on what teachers were doing for three teachers.
Conclusions/Recommendations: We used Remillardís framework to investigate and characterize the participatory relationship between teachers and the GBL curriculum. The resulting characterizations provide insight for supporting GBL teacher learning contexts and will help guide future research. Based on this study, it is critical that individuals involved in educational change continue trying to understand and develop spaces for teacher learning. These spaces should move beyond traditional professional development focused on teacher participation toward experiences focused on teacher learning within and across their teaching contexts.
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