Professional Development and Teachers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Factors Influencing Science Education Computer Simulation Use

Gonczi, Amanda, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation, a three-paper set, examined elementary and science teachers’ simulation use practices that have implications for professional development and teacher growth. The first paper compared the extent of simulation use and use for inquiry-based teaching following two different professional development programs (situated vs. technical). Although there were no differences in outcomes that might indicate an advantage to a situated professional development, this study revealed the limiting effect of computerized standardized testing procedures on teachers’ computer access.
The second paper documented elementary teachers simulation use pre- and post-professional development. Less than 15% of elementary teachers in Virginia use simulations during their science instruction. The professional development promoted significant adoption by highlighting the affordances of simulations that elementary teachers could capitalize on. However, the professional development did not help teachers overcome perceived barriers – in particular limited technology access. Moving forward, professional development needs to explicitly identify participants’ beliefs about barriers and help them overcome the belief that a one-to-one computer-to-student-ratio is optimal and necessary for successful simulation use to promote further adoption.
The third paper documented the instructional support and implementation structures commonly utilized by elementary teachers. Observation data indicated elementary teachers implemented simulations most often in a one-to-one student-to-
computer ratio. In addition, the participants were less likely to support students during rotating stations than in other structures. These findings indicate elementary teachers have room for pedagogical growth. In particular, they need to be encouraged to take advantage of whole group instruction and consider how to support students in each implementation structure.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Computer simulations, elementary teachers, science instruction
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: