Improving Science Education in International Schools Through Professional Development Targeting Next Generation Science Standards Assessment Design
This study explores the impact of a professional development (PD) activity conducted for teachers of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) at 15 American-curriculum international schools. The intervention involved teachers utilizing the 3D-PAST screening tool to systematically evaluate the alignment of teacher-designed assessments with the constructs of the NGSS and best practices in science instruction. Data about the way the intervention enhanced or challenged teachers’ understanding of the NGSS were collected via a multiple methods approach. The New Framework of Science Education Survey of Teacher Understanding (NFSE-STU) was used in a retrospective pretest-posttest fashion to assess changes in teachers’ understanding of NGSS constructs. Subsequently, interviews were conducted with participants which provided data that expanded upon the NFSE-STU findings. The Refined Consensus Model of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (RCM-PCK) was used to interpret the findings and situate the study within the extant literature on teacher PCK. The intervention was found to have a statistically significant effect on teachers’ understanding of the NGSS in all areas measured by the NFSE-STU. Additionally, data suggest that the intervention elicited changes in teachers’ classroom practices and improved collaborative professional practices. Also highlighted in the analysis was the significance of the relationship between the intervention moderator and the participants as a strong predictor of the way the intervention was perceived by teachers. The findings strongly support the suggestion that international school administrators seeking to maximize the impact of science teacher professional development should consider PD activities that train teachers in the use of aids to align NGSS assessments, because doing so simultaneously enhances teacher understanding of the NGSS while encouraging meaningful changes to professional practice. The study contributes to the nascent body of literature utilizing the RCM-PCK to situate understanding of science-teacher PCK, and fills a void in literature examining PD in American curriculum international schools, and highlights issues with potential to serve as foci for additional cycles of action research in the areas of international schools, science teacher and NGSS-related professional development, and the use of tools similar to 3D-PAST within other teaching disciplines.