Examining barriers to professional development for science teachers

Date of Completion

January 2004


Education, Teacher Training|Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




The current science reform movement emphasizes the importance of professional development for teachers as a means of improving student learning in science. Several national studies illustrate the fact that many teachers lack the expertise in areas associated with science education reform. Research on professional development also indicates that current practices in professional development activities do little to increase teacher knowledge or student learning. There appear to be two major reasons for the lack of success of present professional development, poorly designed professional development opportunities for teachers and the lack of participation by teachers. Responses to state and national surveys indicate that few teachers attend workshops, conferences, and other types of science professional development activities offered outside of their districts. However, science teachers also indicated a need for science-specific professional development in both content and pedagogy. There is a disconnect between what keeps teachers from attaining the goals of approving science education as outlined by national commissions and reports and participation in professional development. ^ This qualitative interpretative study explored teacher participation and experiences in science professional development activities presently offered in Connecticut. Through focus groups and survey, current professional development practices that may hinder participation by science teachers were examined. Results showed that most of the professional development offered to Connecticut science teachers continues to be described as ineffective and traditional in nature with little follow-up and no teacher input. The results also identified the existence of social, personal, professional and institutional barriers that impede the delivery of effective professional development programs. Many Connecticut teachers participate in professional growth activities or programs of their own choosing which have been categorized as ‘personal professional development.’ Even though the professional development offered by their school districts met their professional certification requirements, teachers described personal professional development as activities that increased their content knowledge and allowed them to network with other teachers. ^