Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

College/School

College of Education and Human Services

Department/Program

Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Douglas B. Larkin

Committee Member

Kathryn G. Herr

Committee Member

Jeremy N. Price

Subject(s)

Physics teachers--Training of, Physics--Study and teaching (Secondary)

Abstract

Urban and rural high schools in the United States often struggle in regard to the staffing of their physics classrooms with qualified teachers. Some states have responded to this challenge with education policy as a means of addressing the critical shortages of physics teachers by permitting inservice teachers to attain physics certification through endorsement programs. Although research on alternative certification typically evaluates and compares diverse models, this study focuses on teachers’ own perceptions of their experience in the aforementioned program, as well as their learning and development in and beyond preparation for physics endorsement.

In this qualitative multiple case study, informed by social constructivist and feminist epistemological perspectives, the participants included teachers of various discipline specializations: mathematics, history, biology and Earth science. The study’s design included purposeful sampling and three data collection methods: interview, a questionnaire, and classroom observations in regard to the teaching of physics. The teachers underwent a series of semi-structured interviews that focused on the examination of their experiences in context by inviting them to share personal and professional details about themselves, including their physics preparation, and their subsequent professional development and teaching experiences with respect to physics.

The results with respect to the above noted indicate that all four of the teacher participants felt well prepared to teach physics. The curricular materials from the certification program offered teachers support in subject matter content knowledge and pedagogy, particularly during their first two years. In some cases, the participants’ physics identity was both stable and enduring over time and context. This study finds that the participants’ beliefs about the nature of physics (which encompass sources of knowledge or how physics knowledge is acquired), exerted a far greater influence on teacher practices than even the participants themselves recognized.

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