Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Erin Marie Furtak

Second Advisor

Susan Jurow

Third Advisor

William Penuel

Fourth Advisor

Lorrie Shepard

Fifth Advisor

Mike Klymkowsky

Abstract

Current reform efforts in science education call for significant shifts in how science is taught and learned. Teachers are important gatekeepers for reform, as they must enact these changes with students in their own classrooms. As such, professional development approaches need to be developed and studied to understand how teachers interpret and make instructional plans to implement these reforms. However, traditional approaches to studying implementation of reforms often draw on metrics such as time allotted to new activities, rather than exploring the ways in which teachers make sense of these reforms. In this dissertation I draw upon a body of work called sensemaking that has focused on locating learning in teachers' conversations in departmental work groups. I developed a conceptual and analytic framework to analyze how teachers make sense of reform given their local contexts and then used this framework to perform a case study of one group of teachers that participated in larger professional development project that examined the impact of a learning progression on science teachers' formative assessment practices. I draw upon videotapes of three years of monthly professional development meetings as my primary source of data, and used an ethnographic approach to identify dilemmas surfaced by teachers, sources of ambiguity and uncertainty, and patterns of and resources for teacher sensemaking. The case study reveals relationships between the type of dilemma surfaced by the teachers and different patterns of sensemaking for modification of teaching practices. When teachers expressed concerns about district or administrative requirements, they aligned their work in the professional development to those external forces. In contrast, teachers were able to develop and try out new practices when they perceived coherence between the professional development and school or district initiatives. These results underscore the importance of coherence between various components of teachers' work environments.