Leadership for professional learning: developing teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for nature of science in New Zealand secondary schools. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The New Zealand curriculum requires science to be taught through the Nature of Science (NOS). NOS, which includes the skills and processes used by scientists to explain the world in which they live, is deemed necessary for improving the scientific literacy of 21st century learners and, therefore, the prosperity of modern societies. In New Zealand, as in many other countries, NOS has been given prominence in the science curriculum for more than a decade, yet teachers are still grappling with how to transfer this policy to practice. This thesis investigates how to support teachers teach science through NOS, with a particular focus on the role of the Head of Department (HOD) in developing NOS pedagogical content knowledge and supporting teachers to acquire this knowledge.
Adopting a qualitative, case study methodology, the study conducted document analysis and semi-structured interviews in three secondary schools in New Zealand. The cases were science departments consisting of the HOD, another science teacher and focus groups of Year 9 or 10 students. The documents analysed included teachers’ schemes of work and unit plans, assessment tasks, students’ exercise books and students’ workbooks. A case study approach was taken to gain in-depth knowledge of the participants’ understandings and experiences of working with NOS as implementing this intent of the NZC has been challenging for science teachers. Two paradigms were used to analyse the data; interpretive and leadership for learning.
The problems associated with implementing the science curriculum reforms in New Zealand and internationally have been well documented. Many of these problems concern a need for teachers to have multiple knowledges beyond science content knowledge. At the local level of the classroom, teachers also need to combine knowledge of learners and their characteristics alongside knowledge of educational goals. Science teachers, however, also need NOS content and NOS pedagogical content knowledges since Nature of Science is a focus in the curriculum for the science learning area. Professional learning is needed to develop these later knowledges for both teachers and their HODs. For those in leadership roles, such as HODs, the learning is not confined to NOS on its own.
This research has demonstrated the importance of the HOD taking ownership of the change process and the knowledges needed to build teacher confidence in NOS. Building on the literature, the case study HODs were better able to lead change when there was multi-level support from within the school as well as coaching from an external facilitator. Knowing how to build trusting, risktaking learning conditions within the department was important, as was knowledge of the teachers as adult learners. HODs were able to build teacher confidence in NOS through dialogue, modelling and monitoring to highlight the knowledge and strategies needed for teaching science.
Kotter’s (1995, p. 9) eight step model for change was used as the lens through which to analyse the research data. This was adapted to an educational context and included a temporal dimension which was missing in Kotter’s model. The resulting ‘Roundabout Change Model’ provides reflective questions and prompts to guide HODs’ leadership of change, such as teaching science through NOS. Furthermore, identifying the key steps in change leadership will provide guidance for policy makers and professional learning and development facilitators working in this field.
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