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Effects of a Longitudinal School Development Program on Primary Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Inquiry Teaching and Their Inquiry Teaching Practices

by Tim Post & Juliette H. Walma van der Molen - 2020

Background/Context: International education policy documents increasingly promote the implementation of inquiry-based pedagogy in primary education. However, helping whole primary school teams to acquire the competencies that meet these new education standards is complex and requires extensive teacher professionalization programs. Unfortunately, such programs are still relatively scarce. Little is currently known about what it takes to help primary schools integrate inquiry-focused pedagogy into their school curriculum and which teacher and school factors might foster or hinder teachers’ professional development in this regard.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: To help fill this void in the literature, the present article describes the effects of a two-year school improvement program in which the complete school staffs of six Dutch primary schools were trained to integrate inquiry-focused pedagogy into daily school practice. We measured (changes in) teachers’ and school principals’ performance before, immediately after, and one year after the treatment to gain insight into what professionalization features and what school and teacher factors may enhance the sustained implementation of inquiry-focused pedagogy in primary schools.

Research Design: A delayed treatment pretest-posttest control group design was used to investigate the effects of the program on teachers’ attitudes toward inquiry teaching and their inquiry teaching behavior. In addition, differences in these program effects were explored based on differences in school leadership between the schools. Therefore, program effects were examined at the treatment level and at the individual school level by means of attitude questionnaires and interviews.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Results indicate that the program significantly improved teachers’ attitudes and inquiry teaching behavior of the first treatment group and that teachers’ improved practices persisted to one year after training. However, school leadership remained largely moderate throughout the program and appeared to explain little variation in teachers’ inquiry teaching development among the participating schools. In addition, results reveal positive but limited effects of the same program on the attitude and behavior development of the delayed treatment group. Findings indicate that a combination of extensive attitude-focused and didactical training provides primary school teams the (minimal) preparatory training to adopt inquiry-based pedagogy. More longitudinal quantitative and qualitative research is needed to evaluate the impact and explore the processes of implementation, while considering the complexity of schools as organizations and refraining from overly prescriptive approaches to encouraging and assessing teachers’ inquiry-pedagogy.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 12, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23528, Date Accessed: 2/26/2021 4:32:53 AM

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About the Author
  • Tim Post
    University of Twente
    E-mail Author
    TIM POST is a PhD student at the Research Centre of Science Education and Talent Development (SETD) at the Department of Teacher Development (ELAN) at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. His research interests include pupils’ epistemic curiosity and inquiry-focused pedagogy in primary education. A recent publication is: Post, T., & Walma van der Molen, J. H. (2018). Development and validation of a questionnaire to measure primary school children’s images of and attitudes towards curiosity (the CIAC Questionnaire). Motivation and Emotion, 43, 1–20.
  • Juliette H. Walma van der Molen
    University of Twente
    E-mail Author
    JULIETTE H. WALMA VAN DER MOLEN, Ph.D., is professor and director of the Research Center for Science Education and Talent Development (SETD) at the University of Twente. Her research interests include young people’s learning of science, their images of and attitudes toward science and technology, and the possibilities to professionalize teachers and implement new educational strategies that stimulate children’s creative and scientific thinking. A recent publication is: Van Aalderen-Smeets, S. I., Walma van der Molen, J. H., & Xenidou-Dervou, I. (2018). Implicit STEM ability beliefs predict secondary school students’ STEM self-efficacy beliefs and their intention to opt for a STEM field career. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 56, 465–485.
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