The influence of secondary science teachers' pedagogical content knowledge, educational beliefs and perceptions of the curriculum on implementation and science reform

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Secondary|Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Science education reform is one of the focal points of restructuring the educational system in the United States. However, research indicates a slow change in progression towards science literacy among secondary students. One of the factors contributing to slow change is how teachers implement the curriculum in the classroom. Three constructs are believed to be influential in curriculum implementation: educational beliefs, pedagogical knowledge and perception of the curriculum. Earlier research suggests that there is a strong correlation between teachers' educational beliefs and instructional practices. These beliefs can be predictors of preferred strategies employed in the classroom. Secondly, teachers' pedagogical knowledge, that is the ability to apply theory and appropriate strategies associated with implementing and evaluating a curriculum, contributes to implementation. Thirdly, perception or how the curriculum itself is perceived also effects implementation. Each of these constructs has been examined independently, but never the interplay of the three. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the interplay of teachers' educational beliefs, pedagogical content knowledge and perceptions of a science curriculum with respect to how these influence curriculum implementation. This was accomplished by investigating the emerging themes that evolved from classroom observations, transcripts from interview and supplementary data. ^ Five high school biology teachers in an urban school system were observed for ten months for correspondence of teaching strategies to the curriculum. Teachers were interviewed formally and informally about their perceptions of science teaching, learning and the curriculum. Supplementary material such as lesson plans, course syllabus and notes from classroom observations were collected and analyzed. Data were transcribed and analyzed for recurring themes using a thematic matrix. ^ A theoretical model was developed from the emerging themes and sub-themes that attempts to explain how teachers begin with an intended curriculum but digress to the actual curriculum. ^ The results of this study were consistent with previous research on teachers' beliefs and pedagogy but also revealed a new model to explain the interaction of the three constructs. Each instructor held individual beliefs about science, science teaching and pedagogy. However, there was some commonality with teachers' beliefs, pedagogy and perceptions that impacted the implementation of the curriculum. It is the interplay of teachers' educational beliefs, pedagogical content knowledge and perceptions of the curriculum that determines what is taught and instructional strategies used to teach a concept. ^