Dissertation Defense: Sarah Coppersmith for Doctor of Philosophy in Education
From Curriculum to Classroom: A Case Study of Teachers’ Perceptions and Practice of Inquiry at an Elementary International Baccalaureate Candidate School
Sarah A. Coppersmith
M.A. in Geography Eastern Michigan University, June 1981
B.S. in Earth Science, Eastern Michigan University, June 1978
Inquiry methods are commonly endorsed as an approach to engage students in meaningful learning, yet many teachers still question how to implement inquiry-based teaching in their classrooms. Moreover, questions remain about how inquiry instruction is actually practiced worldwide. The purpose of this mixed-methods case study was to examine teachers’ understanding and appropriation of inquiry teaching and learning in kindergarten through third grade at a language-immersion school setting that isimplementing the IBO Primary Years Programme of Inquiry. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), with schools in 140 countries, offers an emphasis on inquiry learning in the elementary grades with a curriculum called the Primary Years Programme of Inquiry (PYP). The research questions were: What are teachers’ perceptions of how to implement an inquiry-based curriculum in their classrooms? How do teachers use inquiry-oriented practices in an inquiry-based elementary school? What is the evidence for inquiry teaching and learning within the curriculum and in the classroom? What are the barriers to enacting inquiry-based teaching? The purposive sample included 29 kindergarten-through-third grade teachers and three administrators in an urban language immersion schoolsetting. The mixed methods approach for this seven month study included a lesson observation instrument to observe inquiry teaching in 23 language immersion classrooms, qualitative participant observations at 10 professional development meetings, and 23 semi-structured interviews of 20 teachers and 3 administrators. The 46 lesson observations for 23 teachers were videotaped, translated, and scored using the SAMPI (Science and Mathematics Improvement) instrument. Mean scores developed from the observation instrument were compared with the qualitative results gathered in interviews, meeting observations, and curricular analysis through an iterative process. Results show teachers working continuously in a community of practice to design and implement six standards-based PYP inquiry units per year while perceiving inquiry in disparate ways. The findings also demonstrate the barriers identified through analysis, including teachers’ classroom management and experience, as well as their skill at understanding and appropriating students’ linguistic and cognitive skills within the content areas. Implications for future research and practice are in the areas of elementary level inquiry learning, teacher preparation for using inquiry methodsin the content areas, conceptual development via inquiry within language immersion, and inquiry learning in the IBO PYP.
Defense of Dissertation Committee
- Gayle Wilkinson, Ed. D (Advisor)
- Lisa M. Dorner, Ph.D. (Co-Advisor)
- Kim H. Song, Ed. D.
- Joseph Polman Ph.D.
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