Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Teaching and Learning

Committee Chair

Tretter, Thomas R.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Ronau, Robert N.

Author's Keywords

Learning environments; Science inquiry; National Board Certified Teachers; Middle school; High school


Science teachers--Certification; Science--Study and teaching (Elementary)


The purpose of this study was to discern what differences exist between the science inquiry learning environments created by National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and non-NBCTs. Four research questions organized the data collection and analysis: (a) How do National Board Certified science teachers' knowledge of the nature of science differ from that of their non-NBCT counterparts? (b) How do the frequencies of student science inquiry behaviors supported by in middle/secondary learning environments created by NBCTs differ from those created by their non-NBCT counterparts? (c) What is the relationship between the frequency of students' science inquiry behaviors and their science reasoning and understanding of the nature of science? (d) What is the impact of teacher perceptions factors impacting curriculum and limiting inquiry on the existence of inquiry learning environments? The setting in which this study was conducted was middle and high schools in Kentucky during the period between October 2006 and January 2007. The population sampled for the study was middle and secondary science teachers certified to teach in Kentucky. Of importance among those were the approximately 70 National Board Certified middle and high school science teachers. The teacher sample consisted of 50 teachers, of whom 19 were NBCTs and 31 were non-NBCTs. This study compared the science inquiry teaching environments created by NBCTs and non-NBCTs along with their consequent effect on the science reasoning and nature of science (NOS) understanding of their students. In addition, it examined the relationship with these science inquiry environments of other teacher characteristics along with teacher perception of factors influencing curriculum and factors limiting inquiry. This study used a multi-level mixed methodology study incorporating both quantitative and qualitative measures of both teachers and their students. It was a quasi-experimental design using non-random assignment of participants to treatment and control groups and dependent pre- and post-tests (Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002). Teacher and student NOS understanding was measured using the Student Understanding of Science and Science Inquiry (SUSSI) instrument (Liang, et. Al, 2006). Science inquiry environment was measured with the Elementary Science Inquiry Survey (ESIS) (Dunbar, 2002) which was given both to teachers and their students. Science inquiry environment measurements were triangulated with observations of a stratified random sub-sample of participating teachers. Observations were structured using the low-inference Collaboratives for Excellence in Teaching Practice (CETP) Classroom Observation Protocol (COP) (Lawrenz, Huffman, & Appleldoorn 2002), and the high-inference Reform Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) (Piburn & Sawada, 2000). NBCTs possessed more informed view of NOS than did non-NBCTs. Additionally, high school science teachers possessed more informed views regarding NOS than did middle school science teachers, with the most informed views belonging to high school science NBCTs. High school science NBCTs created learning environments in which students engaged in science inquiry behaviors significantly more frequently than did high school science non-NBCTs. Middle school science NBCTs, on the other hand, did not create learning environments that differed in significant ways from those of middle school science non-NBCTs. Students of high school science NBCTs possessed significantly higher science reasoning than did students of high school science non-NBCTs. Middle school students of science NBCTs possessed no more science reasoning ability than did middle school students of science non-NBCTs. NOS understanding displayed by students of both middle school and high school science NBCTs was not distinguished from students of non-NBCTs. Classroom science inquiry environment created by non-NBCTs were correlated with science teachers' perceptions of factors determining the c