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883–907 (2007)

Teacher and School Characteristics and Their Influence on

Curriculum Implementation

Gillian H. Roehrig,1 Rebecca A. Kruse,2 Anne Kern1

Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota, 125 Peik Hall,
159 Pilsbury Drive, SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
Department of Chemistry and Physics, SLU 10878, Southeastern Louisiana University,
Hammond, Louisiana 70402

Received 7 September 2005; Accepted 15 September 2006

Abstract: Reform-based curriculum materials have been suggested as a mechanism to make inquiry-
based instruction more prevalent in secondary science classrooms, specifically when accompanied by
comprehensive professional development (Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, & Stiles, 1998; Powell &
Anderson, 2002). This research examines the implementation of a reform-based high school chemistry
curriculum in a large, urban school district. We explicitly consider the role of the teachers’ knowledge and
beliefs in their implementation of the reform-based chemistry curriculum, as well as school level factors.
Qualitative and quantitative data were collected in the form of beliefs interviews and classroom
observations from 27 high school chemistry teachers. Analysis of the data revealed that implementation
of the curriculum was strongly influenced by the teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning,
and the presence of a supportive network at their school sites. ß 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci
Teach 44: 883–907, 2007
Keywords: chemistry; teacher beliefs; curriculum

Teaching science as inquiry has a long history in the United States, from the early work of
John Dewey to the current national reform documents (American Association for the
Advancement of Science, 1993; National Research Council, 1996). These reform documents
are framed around the goal of enhancing science education for all students, and with this goal in
mind science education reformers have long argued that teachers need to create inquiry-based
learning environments in which students are expected not only to learn the abilities necessary to do
inquiry and to understand the nature of scientific inquiry, but also to learn scientific content
through inquiry. These inquiry experiences should be driven by scientifically oriented questions

Correspondence to: G. Roehrig; E-mail:

DOI 10.1002/tea.20180
Published online 16 February 2007 in Wiley InterScience (

ß 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


that ‘‘lend themselves to empirical investigation, and lead to the gathering of data to develop
explanations for scientific phenomena’’ (NRC, 2000, p. 24), and allow students to gain an
understanding of (1) the processes and skills involved in conducting a scientific inquiry, (2) the
nature of scientific inquiry, and (3) scientific content knowledge.
Despite the central role of science as inquiry in science education reform documents,
there is little evidence that teaching in K–12 classrooms is, in fact, centered around inquiry
(Bybee, 1997; Weiss, Matti, & Smith, 1994). Although cases of individual teachers or groups of
teachers being successful in implementing reform-based teaching exist in the literature (Abd-El-
Khalick, Bell, & Lederman, 1998; Crawford, 2000; Luft, Roehrig, & Patterson, 2003; Roehrig &
Luft, 2004), we do not see significant impact of the proposed science education reforms across the
United States. The cases of systemic science education reform that do exist in the literature,
however, indicate that under the right circumstances widespread inquiry teaching is possible
(Anderson, 1996; Blumenfeld, Krajcik, Marx, & Soloway, 1994; Krajcik, Blumenfeld, Marx, &
Soloway, 1994).
Fullan (2001), in an extensive review of systemic change, concludes that ‘‘to achieve large
scale reform, you cannot depend on people’s capacity to bring about substantial change in the short
run, so you need to propel the process with high quality teaching and training materials’’ (p. 79).
Other authors have also suggested the use of reform-based curriculum materials as a mechanism
for reform in science education, specifically when accompanied by comprehensive professional
development (Loucks-Horsley et al., 1998; Powell & Anderson, 2002). The new wave of reform-
based curricular materials are reflective of current research in teaching and learning and designed
to cover topics in a conceptual manner, tying together big ideas and themes in science rather than
focusing on the teaching of ‘‘factoids.’’ Reform-based curricular materials should also be inquiry
based, utilizing inquiry teaching strategies and activities not only to teach content but also to
develop students’ abilities to both do and understand inquiry.
Curricula-driven reforms are not unique to the current reforms in science education, and
earlier reforms have reported mixed results related to the implementation of curricular materials
(Duschl, 1985; Shymansky, Kyle, & Alport, 1983; Yager, 1992). It should also be noted that most
large-scale reform successes have been at the elementary and middle school level (Fullan, Bertani,
& Quinn, 2004). Fullan (2001) groups the factors that affect the implementation of reform
initiatives into three areas: characteristics of the change itself (the need and relevance of the
change, clarity and complexity of the change, and the quality and practicality of the program),
local factors (characteristics of teachers, principals, and district administrators), and external
factors (parents and community, technology, business, and corporate connections, government
policy, and the wider teaching profession). This study focuses on both local and external factors as
both barriers and pathways to reform-based curricula implementation, funded through an urban
systemic grant, across a large urban school district. In this study we consider the following
research questions:
1. What are the differences between teachers and schools in the implementation of a
reform-based high school chemistry curriculum for all students?
2. What teacher and school characteristics affect the implementation of a reform-based
high school chemistry curriculum for all students?

Related Literature
The current focus on reform calls for large-scale and ambitious reform projects that require a
‘‘sophisticated array of activities, structures, teaching strategies, and philosophical under-
standings’’ to ultimately be effective (Fullan, 2001, p. 78). The initiation of these reform efforts
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

varies widely from grass-roots efforts by groups of teachers, top-down administrative decisions,
and externally funded initiatives such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) local, urban, and
systemic initiatives. These NSF initiatives have routinely involved the adoption of ‘‘rigorous’’
curriculum (often NSF-funded curricula) and performance standards (Consortium for Policy
Research in Education, 1995) and provided extensive in-service training for teachers to use the
curriculum materials and teach in an inquiry-centered manner designed to meet the needs of all
K–12 students.
Research on the NSF systemic initiative programs has focused on both curriculum
implementation and overall impact on student achievement. There is evidence that teachers’ use of
reform-based practices within these NSF-funded systemic reform projects is related to higher
student achievement (e.g., Burkam, Lee, & Smerdon, 1997; Cohen & Hill, 2000; Von Secker,
2002). Unfortunately, large-scale studies of these systemic initiatives are limited by the use of
teacher self-report of instructional practices, which tends to lead to small, although positive,
relationships between reported use of reform-based instruction and student achievement in both
math and science (Cohen & Hill, 2000; Hamilton et al., 2003; Laguarda, 1998). Classroom
observations, interviews, and inspection of classroom materials are needed to provide a better
measure of instructional practice and connection to gains in student achievement.
Systemic change requires the support of district level administration in providing the
resources and professional development needed for reform (Datnow & Stringfield, 2000).
Although implementation can be hampered by lack of resource allocation at the district level, the
implementation process also requires flexibility at the individual school-level to conceptualize the
reform initiatives for the specific school context; curricular adoptions should not be treated by a
district as prescriptive. Ultimately, however, the implementation of any reform depends on
classroom teachers as the implementation of a reform-based curriculum usually requires a
transformation in teachers’ ideas about and understanding of subject matter, teaching, and the
learning of science (Powell & Anderson, 2002). It is the interaction of a teacher’s knowledge and
beliefs about the nature of the reform with the curriculum that determines what actually happens in
the classroom (Powell & Anderson, 2002).
Science teachers’ classroom practices are influenced by a multitude of factors. When
considering reform-based practices, such as inquiry-based instruction, teachers are impacted by
both conceptual knowledge of their discipline (Carlson, 1993; Hashweh, 1987; Kruse & Roehrig,
2005) and structural knowledge of science (Brickhouse, 1990; Duschl, 1987; Roehrig & Luft, in
review), as well as a lack of reform-based pedagogical skills (Adams & Krockover, 1997;
Shulman, 1986). Another factor that influences teachers’ classroom practices is the beliefs held by
teachers about their role as teachers and how student learn. It has been argued that classroom
practices are directly impacted by an individual teacher’s beliefs about teaching and learning.
These beliefs directly guide instructional decisions and influence classroom management
(Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992; Richardson, 1996). Beliefs, unlike knowledge, are propositions held
to be true by the individual, can be nonevidential, based on personal judgment and evaluation
(Pajares, 1992), and as such, beliefs about teaching and learning will impact how teachers utilize
their pedagogical knowledge in the classroom (Morine-Dershimer & Kent, 1999).
Beliefs can persist even in light of the contradictory evidence and knowledge (Munby, 1982),
and as such, beliefs are resistant to change (Rokeach, 1968). Kagan (1992) suggests that teacher
beliefs take upward of 3 years to change. The persistent and nondynamic nature of beliefs systems
is problematic when considering the duration of most professional development or preservice
programs. Richardson (1996) reviewed studies on professional development programs and
concluded that if teachers’ beliefs are a major element of the content of the staff development
program it is possible to promote changes in teachers’ beliefs. Krajcik et al. (1994) reported that
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

only through intensive one-on-one professional development, over an extended time period, did
some teachers confront their beliefs and embrace the reform-based curriculum that was the focus
of the professional development being studied. Even in the most intensive professional
development or preservice programs, changes in beliefs usually only occur for teachers
predisposed to the goals of the professional development program (Holt-Reynolds, 1992; Krajcik
et al., 1994; Richardson, 1996).
Teaching beliefs are reported to dominate teachers’ reactions to and implementation of
reform-based curricula (Cronin-Jones, 1991; Krajcik et al., 1994; Roehrig & Kruse, 2005;
Tobin & McRobbie, 1996). Tobin & McRobbie, 1996, for example, identified four underlying
beliefs that impacted the enactment of a science curriculum: transmission of knowledge,
efficiency, maintaining the rigor of the curriculum, and preparing students to be successful on
examinations. For teachers holding to these beliefs, knowledge is represented as a prescribed set of
facts and algorithms to be transmitted by the teacher and memorized by the students and
traditional classroom practices are prevalent. Cronin-Jones (1991) identified similar prevalent
beliefs and reported that beliefs about how students learn, the teacher’s role in the classroom, the
perceived ability of students, and the nature and importance of content topics strongly influenced
the enactment of a prescribed middle school science curriculum.
Given the growing numbers of beginning teachers entering the classroom, researchers are
predicting that school districts will need to hire up to 200,000 teachers annually over the next
decade (Fideler & Haselkorn, 1999); it is important to pay attention to the experiences of
beginning teachers in a reform environment. Research has shown that few beginning teachers
implement inquiry-based instruction, and that beginning teachers tend to revert to traditional
practices when they face the reality of the classroom (Simmons et al., 1999). Beliefs about
teaching and learning play a critical role in the level of implementation of reform-based practices
(Roehrig & Luft, 2004; Simmons et al., 1999). Simmons et al. (1999) noted that the beliefs of the
beginning teachers, which were initially aligned toward the student-centered philosophies, moved
toward more teacher-centered philosophies during the course of their first 2 years in the classroom.
However, in the presence of appropriate induction support beginning teachers’ beliefs can be
stabilized and even moved to align with the goals of current reforms in science education (Luft,
Roehrig, & Patterson, 2003).
This study was conducted to explore the factors that influenced the implementation of an
inquiry-based chemistry curriculum in a large urban school district. Given the objectives, a mixed-
methodology study was used (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998): evaluation of systemic reform must
include a mixture of quantitative and qualitative approaches, as understanding changes in teaching
practices, cannot occur using self-report teacher surveys. It is essential not only to observe
instruction but also to talk to teachers about their instructional decisions (Frechtling, 2000). The
quantitative component of the study was designed to reveal any correlations between teaching
beliefs and curriculum implementation. The qualitative component of the study consisted of
semistructured interviews (Berg, 1998) and classroom observations, to develop a richer
understanding of the teachers’ experiences with the curriculum. By combining quantitative and
qualitative research, a theory emerges from the practice and beliefs data that is elaborated by the
experiences of the teachers enacting the curriculum.
‘‘Ocean Valley’’ is a large, urban school district with an ethnically and linguistically diverse
student population: 38.8% Hispanic, 26.6% Caucasian, 17.6% Asian, and 16.6% African
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

American, with 29.4% of all students designated as English Language Learners. Ocean Valley has
made a commitment to instituting systemic reforms in science education: the district has adopted
inquiry-based curricula to support all students in successfully completing a 3-year physics-
chemistry-biology sequence. The science education reforms were supported by the school board
and significant funding was provided by a NSF Urban Systemic grant as well as local business
groups with a vested interest in a more technologically and scientifically literate work force.
This study specifically considers the reform-based curriculum adopted for 10th-grade
chemistry students: a new NSF-funded curriculum, Living By Chemistry (LBC). LBC is a year-
long curriculum that consists of six units, each approximately 6 weeks in length (Lawrence Hall of
Science, 2005). The curriculum is mapped to both national and California state standards, and
covers all of the standard material required in a year-long high school chemistry class. The units
are organized by content and by context to provide a real-world context and application of
the chemistry content. Each LBC lesson is designed in a learning cycle format similar to the
5E-inquiry model (Bybee, 1997). The 5Es are engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate.
The engage phase of the cycle is intended to capture the student’s attention, stimulate their
thinking, and help them access prior knowledge. In the LBC curriculum, daily lessons begin with a
short scenario and question designed to both generate student interest and activate students’ prior
knowledge (Chem Catalyst). In the explore phase students are provided with common, concrete
experiences upon which they continue building concepts, processes, and skills. The Chem
Catalyst is followed by an activity, during which students are involved in analysis of data or models
to and develop preliminary ideas in small groups. During the explain phase, the teacher directs
student attention to specific aspects of the engagement and exploration experiences by asking the
students to give their explanations followed by introducing necessary scientific or technological
terms and concepts. In LBC this is achieved through a series of sense-making questions and whole-
group discussion designed to encourage an active exchange of ideas between students and to
formalize preliminary ideas generated in the activity (Making Sense). In the elaborate phase,
students are given the opportunity to expand and solidify their understanding of the concept and/or
apply it to a real world situation. In LBC this is accomplished through follow-up activities or by
reconnecting in the next lesson through the Chem Catalyst. In the final evaluation stage, students
receive feedback on the adequacy of their ideas. In LBC, each lesson ends with a quick assessment
of students’ understanding of the lesson’s learning goal(s) (Check-In).
A central part in the support structure for the science reforms in Ocean Valley was the
assignment of six full-time science administrators to help science teachers in implementing the
new reform curricula, as well as to work within the district’s professional development program.
The science administrators were all chosen because they were experienced, exemplary classroom
teachers. Science administrators were placed at schools designated as high needs based on their
state ranking. To develop the leadership skills necessary to perform their responsibilities the
science administrators were required to enroll in an administrator-credentialing program. These
administrative positions were 2-year appointments paid for by grant funds.

All 54 chemistry teachers in Ocean Valley were required to implement LBC in their regular
chemistry classes; however, schools offering an honors chemistry option made a site-based
decision related to the honors chemistry curriculum. Thirty teachers volunteered to be part of the
research study. Complete data was collected on 27 of these teachers; one teacher moved to another
school district mid-year, one teacher intern left the profession mid-year, and one teacher took a
leave of absence for health reasons. Demographic details about the 27 participants are found in
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

Table 1
Demographic information for participants
Years of
School Teacher Experience Academic Major Certification
Horace Emily 26 B.S. Biology Biology
Robert 3 B.A. Biology Biology
Minor: Chemistry Chemistry
Joy 7 B.S. Biochemistry Biologya
Roy 24 B.S. Biology Biology and Matha
Central Carl 8 B.S. Physics and Astronomy Physical science
Mike 1 B.S. Physical Science Earth Science and Physics
Campbell Sharon 1 B.A. Chemistry Chemistry and Biology
Rachel 1 B.S. Chemistry Internb
Ocean Lance 1 B.S. Biology Biologya
Milly 10 B.S. Chemistry Chemistry
Deb 9 B.S. Biochemistry Biologya
Southridge Amy 0 B.S. Microbiology Biology
Scott 0 M.S. Ceramic Engineering Chemistry
Academic Nathan 11 B.S. Agronomy Chemistry and Physics
Peter 1 B.S. Chemistry Chemistry
Monroe Jackie 2 B.S. Biology Biologya
Joan 15 B.S. Chemistry Physical Science
South Jeff 0 B.S. Chemistry Chemistry
Marie 11 B.S. Physical Science Physical Science
Jon 0 B.A. Liberal Studies Preinternc
Percy Leslie 12 B.S. Biology Biologya
Minor: Chemistry
Fred 20 B.S. Biology Biology
Morrin Kelly 2 B.S. Chemistry Chemistry
Roger 7 B.S. Chemistry Physical Science
Union Kevin 3 B.S. Biology Biologya
Jose 0 B.S. Chemistry Chemistry
Cornet Susan 1 B.S. Biochemistry Biology and Chemistry
Holds a supplemental license in chemistry (requires passing the chemistry Praxis exam).
Intern: working on licensure while teaching fulltime.
Preintern: teaching on an emergency certification but not currently enrolled in a licensure program.

Table 1. These 27 teachers represented 12 of the 15 senior high schools in the district; details of the
12 schools are found in Table 2.

Data Collection and Analysis

Teaching Beliefs
Participants’ beliefs about teaching were collected using semistandardized interviews (Berg,
1998) at the beginning and end of the academic year. The Teachers’ Beliefs Interview (TBI) (Luft,
Roehrig, Brooks, & Austin, 2003), was designed to develop an understanding of how the teachers
viewed students and teaching, as well as what underlying beliefs impacted their curricular
implementation. The eight questions were:

1. How do you decide what to teach and what not to teach in your science classes?
2. How do you decide when to move on in your classroom?
3. How do you describe your role as a teacher?

Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

Table 2
School demographic information
Number of State Free and Reduced
School Students Rankingb Ethnicity Lunch (%) ESL Population (%) Drop-Out Rate (%)
Centrala 1,650 4 Asian 27.6% Hispanic 33% 52.3 19.2 5.4
White 18.7% African American 20.2%
Percy 1,945 6 Asian 4.4% Hispanic 37.6% 23.4 8.7 6.9
White 50% African American 6.8%
South 1,541 7 Asian 11.9% Hispanic 20.7% 35.5 3.9 1.3
White 38.8% African American 27.9%
Campbella 1,720 2 Asian 25% Hispanic 38.4% 72.2 36.5 22.9
White 6.9% African American 29.4%
Southridge 1,946 7 Asian 20.6% Hispanic 27.6% 28.5 6.1 10.4
White 34.5% African American 16.4%
Oceana 1,648 4 Asian 13.4% Hispanic 44.3% 54.6 17.0 7.9
White 27.4% African American 13.9%
Horace 2,258 8 Asian 9.1% Hispanic 26.1% 20.2 8.2 3.2
White 53.1% African American 10.8%
Monroea 1,481 3 Asian 14.3% Hispanic 40.9% 43.3 16.9 6.0
White 30% African American 14.2%
Academic 1,967 8 Asian 22.9% Hispanic 22.8% 15 5.3 3.6
White 42% African American 11.4%

Union 2,776 2 Asian 2.9% Hispanic 71% 39.8 35.2 15.7

White 11.7% African American 14%
Morrina 2,986 3 Asian 50% Hispanic 26.4% 27.7 13 26.2
White 5% African American 18.5%
Corneta 1,449 3 Asian 5.6% Hispanic 42.2% 28.4 15.6 9.6
White 45.2% African American 5.9%
Schools assigned a science administrator due to low state rankings—ositions were paid for by the systemic reform grant.
The API ranking is a decile score that indicates a school’s performance level. It is based on scores from the state norm-referenced test, the California Standards Test, and the California
High School Exit Exam. Annual improvement targets are set for each school. Schools that meet their growth targets may receive performance awards. Schools that do not meet their
growth targets may receive assistance through the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program (II/USP). For information, visit the state Web site (

Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea


4. How do your students learn best?

5. How do you know when your students understand?
6. How do you know when learning is occurring in your classroom?
7. How do you maximize student learning?
8. How do you adapt your teaching to best represent the discipline of science?

The TBI interviews were audiotaped and coded by two researchers using the TBI coding
maps (Luft, Roehrig, et al., 2003).These coding maps were originally developed from TBI
interviews with over 100 secondary science teachers. Categories emerged from our initial
interviews as we utilized the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The
emergent categories were traditional, instructive, transitional, responsive, and reform-based.
Traditional and instructive responses represent more traditional or teacher-centered beliefs, while
responsive and reform-based responses represent beliefs aligned with the goal of the current
science education reforms and student-centered learning. Transitional responses demonstrate an
affective response toward students but do not clearly affirm students’ role in the classroom as
coconstructors of knowledge. The epistemological underpinnings of these emergent categories
are similar to those found in the literature (e.g., Ernest, 1989). Table 3 summarizes these categories
and provides examples for one of the TBI questions: how do you know when learning is occurring
in your classroom?
The resulting profile of teaching beliefs for each teacher was quantified to allow for
a statistical analysis of teaching beliefs in relationship to observed classroom practice.
Each of the eight coded-responses was given a numerical value: 1 ¼ a traditional response,
2 ¼ an instructional response, 3 ¼ a transitional response, 4 ¼ an emergent response, and
5 ¼ a reform-based response. This resulted in an overall beliefs score between 8 and 40 for each
Table 3
TBI category description and example
Category Examples of extracts from teacher responses
How do you know when learning is occurring in
your classroom?
Traditional: determined by the action of students It is still quiet at the end of the lesson
during instruction. Emphasis is on order and When they are paying close attention to the lecture
attention as related to the student
Instructive: determined through measures given by I give regular quizzes to see if they are getting it
the teacher
Emphasis is on correctness of the student response When they can follow the instructions in the
I look at their lab writeups, their graphs, their tests
Transitional: determined through subjective Students write a reflection about their learning
conclusions or affective response about the Students are talking about science outside of class
student I can tell by the look in their eyes
Responsive: students interact with their peers or Students are helping each other
the teacher about the topic (teacher responses are When students interact to solve problems
limited and lack detail) Students defend their ideas through use of evidence
and examples
Reform-based: Students initiate significant When students are teaching one another
interactions with one another and/or the teacher Students seek other students opinions about the
about the topic content and what they know about an idea
Students can formulate thoughtful questions about
the content

Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea


Observations of Practice
Teachers were observed monthly, for a total of six to eight times throughout the school year.
Each observation was conducted by one of the three authors of this article, with observations being
rotated so that each teacher was observed at least twice by each of the three authors. Observations
were scheduled up to a week in advance with the stated purpose of observing the implementation
of the LBC units. Each observation was for a full class period. Detailed notes were taken on a
laptop during observations to provide a detailed picture of teacher and student interactions with the
curriculum. Notes included a description of all major events in the classroom including teacher
directions and lecture notes, teacher and student questions, student engagement in the activities,
teacher interactions with students, any student handouts or assessments were also collected and
included into the observation notes. Notes were organized by 5-minute segments with the observer
marking major events during each 5-minute time period.
Observations were scored using a modified Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol
(RTOP) (Sawada et al., 2002). The RTOP is a 25-item observation inventory that measures three
domains of teacher practice: lesson design and implementation, content (propositional and
procedural), and classroom culture (communicative interactions and student/teacher relation-
ships). Reliability and validity data have been reported for the use of RTOP in both college and
secondary school settings (Sawada et al., 2002), Cronbach’s alpha for the individual RTOP scales
and subscales are reported between 0.80 and 0.93. The RTOP subscale for lesson design and
implementation was modified as the original inventory assumes that the teachers are designing
their own lessons, whereas in this study teachers were being asked to implement an existing
curricular design (Roehrig & Kruse, 2005). RTOP scores were recorded for each individual
lesson, with possible scores ranging from 0–100, by one of the five observers. The individual
scores for each teacher were averaged to represent the average RTOP score for the LBC
implementation (0–100).

Curriculum Evaluation. At the end of the study, participants were asked to reflect on their
experiences implementing the curriculum. Teachers were asked to discuss their perceived
strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum, modifications they made to the curriculum during the
year, as well as any modifications they intended to make the following year. Teachers were also
asked about specific aspects of the lesson structure, specifically how they used the Chem Catalysts
and Check-Ins. Teachers were also asked about what support they had received from their school
and district in implementing the curriculum.

School Characteristics. Information about the school environment was collected from an
interview with the teacher at the beginning and end of the year and through follow-up
conversations with teachers at professional workshop meetings and after observations. Teachers
were asked about their interactions with school administrators, district administrators, and other
teachers regarding the curriculum. Teachers were asked about their other job responsibilities such
as committee work for other school initiatives. Information was also collected about the adequacy
of the school structure for supporting the curriculum implementation in terms of class size and the
quality of the classrooms and equipment.

Additional Artifacts. Throughout the study additional documents were collected to capture
the experiences, practices, and beliefs of the participants. These included personal e-mail
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

messages, observations of professional development activities, and phone calls to research staff
from participants.

Because our goal was to understand the factors that impact the implementation of science
curricular reforms across a large school district, cases illustrating the experiences and
implementation of the curriculum will be presented both at the individual teacher-level and the
school-level. Throughout the presentation of the results, pseudonyms will be used for each subject,
within quoted material, and in any reference to specific individuals or schools.

Teacher-Level Findings

Qualitative Findings
From the analysis of data, three broad groupings emerged that represented the curriculum
implementation of these teachers. The first grouping, referred to as the Traditional Teachers,
included five teachers. The second grouping, referred to as the Mechanistic Implementers,
consisted of 14 teachers. The final grouping, referred to as the Inquiry Teachers, contained eight
teachers. These groupings emerged from an analysis of the classroom observation notes and
common teacher practices as described in Table 4.

Table 4
Summary of classroom practices by implementation grouping
Teacher Group Characteristics of Classroom Practice
Traditional  Lessons had significant modifications from the curriculum guidelines
 Teachers did not use the Chem. Catalyst (engagement activities)
 Teachers lectured prior to student activities instead of leading a discussion after the
 Teachers turned the small group exploration activities into individual worksheet
 Teachers focused on transmission of factual information to students
Mechanistic  Lessons had all of the components of the curriculum—Chem. Catalyst, Activity,
Making Sense, and Check-In
 Limited teacher questioning skills during small group and whole group activities
 Activities were completed in informal groups or individually—no cooperative
learning strategies were observed
 Minimal discussion of student data following an activity—after a short attempt to
discuss the activity students were told what they should have observed or concluded
or left to draw their own conclusions
Inquiry  Lessons had all of the components of the curriculum—Chem. Catalyst, Activity,
Making Sense, and Check-In
 Strong teacher questioning skills during small group and whole group activities
 Cooperative learning strategies were consistently used in small group activities
 Discussions of the activities involved group sharing activities, such as white
boarding, and allowed students to draw conclusions through teacher-led discussion
 Students were often observed to question each other and challenge the evidence used
to draw a conclusion during small and whole group activities

Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea


Traditional Teachers
Two patterns of implementation characterized this group, Milly and Carl abandoned the
implementation completely whereas Jon, Joy, and Fred modified the implementation significantly.
Carl was only observed implementing one LBC lesson throughout the year. Milly completed the
Alchemy unit and then abandoned the curriculum; she continued to follow the same sequence of
topics but used her own lesson plans, worksheets, and activities. While Jon, Fred, and Joy followed
the lesson sequence of the LBC curriculum they did not use the Chem Catalysts (Engage activities)
and made many modifications to the lessons, particularly adding whole days of lecture and extra
topics. The following excerpt from Carl’s class typified a lesson (for details of the intended lesson
see Lawrence Hall of Science, 2005) for teachers in this group, an introductory lecture (in this case
45 minutes), independent or small group work on the activity, followed by a short teacher-led
wrap-up of the lesson.

Introduction to the Periodic Card Sort Activity (45 minutes)

T: If you would pull out your notebooks and copy down what’s on the board.

S: Again?

T: A day without notes is like a day without sunshine.

S: So why’d you cover up the periodic table

T: Because in your lab today you’re going to be building a periodic table and I don’t want
you cheating. Ok, let’s take a look at what we have here on the board. You are actually
going to build a periodic table. It’s missing this right here. (Shades out transition
metals.) Each element has its own card. Before we do that let’s talk about the periodic
law. (Reads definition) . . . I’m going to look at a couple of characteristics right now.
There’s a very interesting characteristic that happens to this first group. All the elements
in this first group, if you add them to water, they explode.

S: Cool!

T: So there’s one of the periodic characteristics or tendencies of the periodic table. Every
time I’m moving through the elements and I come back to this first column, ‘cause
remember, you read the periodic table like reading a book, you start at the top left hand,
then move across, then come back and read across, but every time we come back to this
very first column, I see this repeating nature. Just one of the repeating natures is the fact
that all of the elements in that column happen to explode when they hit water. Another
one is all of the elements in this last column. What are they called?. . .

Small group work (40 minutes)

T: I’m going to tell you right now: the size of the dots corresponds to the size of the atoms.

S: What do we do?

T: Have you read the directions yet? That might help.

S: Well how come these cards don’t have numbers on them?

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T: They do have numbers, just not the atomic numbers. Everything on the cards
corresponds to something real except the color. Atoms don’t have color.

S: What do the numbers mean?

T: That’s atomic mass.

S: And the lines?

T: Those are valence electrons.

Wrapup (5 minutes)

T: Go back to your desks. Staple your worksheets together as a group. Hand them in now or
they’ll be late. Time’s up. . ..

T: Ok, I’m going to do one thing that was on the worksheet. I’m going to draw these two
cards that were in the column with germanium. OK, so carbon is found as CH4 carbon
tetrahydride, silicon is found as SiH4, so we’ll also find germanium as GeH4. OK, have a
good afternoon.

These teachers all held beliefs that were predominantly teacher centered (see Table 6).
Carl’s discussion about maximizing student learning highlights the beliefs typical of this
group of teachers, as well as demonstrating the underlying philosophy behind his classroom

With all respect to [the] modern concept of ‘‘we are all learners in the class’’ I still believe
the teacher is the holder of knowledge and the director of events. So I can maximize
student learning through lecturing as the primary source of knowledge transfer . . . How do
my students learn best? Hmmm (long pause) . . . that really depends on what you mean by
best. Obviously, they learn with a deeper understanding of the subject, through experience
and experimentation. However, time constraints means learning best over a broad range of
subject matter requires lecture, book reading, and development of skills. You basically,
have to tell them. I mean I build in time into a class to give them the opportunity to give
explain to each other,. . . but the overarching goal is to get it right.

Mechanistic Implementers
Teachers in this group followed the curriculum closely, keeping all aspects of the lessons
intact; for example, none of these teachers were observed skipping the Chem Catalyst. The
following excerpt from Susan’s class typified a lesson for teachers in this group. To exemplify
differences between teacher groups, the lesson is the same Periodic Table card sort activity from
the traditional teacher group. Comments from the observer are included in italics.

Introduction (Chem Catalyst) 5 minutes

T: Ok, here are the objectives for today, so after today you should be able to identify trends
and patterns on the periodic table. You’re going to be able to look at a periodic table and
know what’s happening related to where an element is located. The second objective for
today is to then be able to look at a periodic table, take an element that we know nothing

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Table 5
Summary of participants’ teaching beliefs and classroom practices (N ¼ 27)
Teacher Traditional Instructive Transitional Responsive TBIb RTOPc
Traditional teachers
Joy   19 34
Carla   13 26
Millya   20 36
Jon   18 36
Fred    18 35
Mechanistic implementers
Emily    24 45
Robert    21 49
Mikea    22 43
Susana   19 46
Lancea   19 42
Jose   21 47
Deba   17 49
Amy    16 48
Scott    19 42
Nathan    15 41
Peter   18 48
Jackiea    25 47
Jeff   18 48
Rogera    17 43
Inquiry teachers
Marie    25 74
Sharona   21 57
Leslie    26 58
Rachela    23 59
Joana    22 68
Roy    25 60
Kellya   23 69
Kevin    23 59
Teachers at schools with an assigned fulltime science administrator.
Total TBI score (range 8–40) from prebeliefs interview.
Average RTOP score for all observed lessons (range 0–100).
A  represents the coded response to a question on the TBIs interview.

about and be able guess some of the properties because of what we learn about the
patterns on the table. So for the Chem Catalyst. The document on the overhead was
created in 1889 when chemists knew of only 63 elements, so the question is, ‘‘How do
you think the elements are organized?’’

S: Columns and numbers

T: Columns. Now what do you call these things going across?

S: Rows.

T: Rows, good. So you can answer that first question. This is organized by columns and
rows. Does everyone recognize the columns and rows?

S: Yeah.

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T: The second question is, ‘‘What do the numbers represent?’’ I know a lot of you can’t
see the numbers, so what I’ll tell you is that the numbers increase going down and
they increase going across. So what do you think those numbers might stand for? Any

S: The elements and their . . . number.

T: What does their number represent?

S: Mass (quietly).

T: Mass. Did you guys hear that? Those numbers represent mass. You’re going to be
making at a bigger copy of your own today.

[Almost none of the students wrote the Chem Catalyst in notebook]

Small group work (35 minutes)

T: So how are you going to get started?

S: It says we organize around, hmmm, we find Be, Mg, Ca, Sr.

T: OK, so lay out all the cards. Lay out this column and from there you’ll know how to lay
out the other columns, OK. I’ll come back to check on you guys.

T: OK, so what do you notice about this column.

S: They’re all yellow.

T: And these are all green, right? So why don’t you divide the cards up and sort them by

S: I’ll take blue.

T: So what patterns do you see?

S: The circles are getting bigger, the colors are the same.

[Students chatted and goofed off. Few groups made an attempt to do activity. Groups
engaged slowly, and only when the teacher came around to help. Eventually, all groups
had the correct arrangement on their table with many groups letting the teacher do most of
the work. More students were engaged in the missing element portion of the activity. Some
students filled out their worksheets independently. Most students filled out a worksheet by
copying their neighbor’s.]

Wrap Up (Making Sense and Check In) (10 minutes)

T: Turn around and face the board. If you’re not done, it will be a good time for you to
answer things that you haven’t gotten to. That’s why it’s always best to try and get
through all the questions before we have discussion.

T: So somebody tell me what’s a pattern that you used to help you set up your table?

S: Colors.

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T: Who else has a pattern?

S: The lines.

T: What do you mean by the lines?

S: The lines from the little circle. One, two, three.

T: Down a column?

S: No, this way (gestures horizontally).

T: Going across a row, good!

S: Yeah, the little lines coming off the circle were a hint as to the columns.

T: So if I had one bar coming off my circle, what column would I be in?

S: You would be in the Li, K, Na, Column I.

T: Column I? Good. . ..

T: Did you have another one, Phil?

S: Some cards are missing [germanium is deliberately left out of the set to allow students to
use periodic trends to predict its chemical and physical properties].

T: Ohh, very, very good! We’re going to look at that, but right now just as an introduction to
that, I’d like you guys to flip your worksheets over so you have the little pictures of cards
on the back. Which card did you guys choose for germanium?

S: D.

T: Any disagreements? Why did you pick that?. . ..

T: In your notebook, I want you to answer the Check-In. We’ve got 4 elements here. I
want you to study the properties that go with each element and I want you to tell
me which of these elements might be stuck together in a column. Answer in your
notebook then we’ll talk about it. I should see answers being written down then we will
talk about it.

[Only a few students wrote anything in their notebooks. Only two students actively
engaged in the discussion.]

Mechanistic implementation of the curriculum, as exemplified by the example from Susan’s

classroom, was characterized by the presence of all elements of the curriculum but without the
presence of associated inquiry teaching strategies. In other words, these lessons were hindered by
low level of student engagement and cooperative learning during group work, limited teacher
questioning skills, and minimal student engagement in drawing conclusions from the lesson
activities. It should be noted that nine of the teachers (including Susan) in this group were first- or
second-year teachers (a tenth teacher was in her third year of teaching); thus, classroom
management problems and limited/developing inquiry teaching skills were not surprising. As
beginning teachers, setting up the premise for the lesson (Chem Catalyst) and leading a wrapup
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discussion that allowed students to develop their own conclusions from their data were particularly
difficult. These areas are highlighted in the following excerpts from the beginning and end of
Mike’s lesson. The goal of the lesson is to compare the properties of maleic and formic acid to
determine that different isomers (cis and trans) have different properties, and thus rotation around
a carbon–carbon double bond is not possible (for details, see Lawrence Hall of Science, 2005).

Chem Catalyst

The Chem Catalyst questions are on the overhead. Students are instructed to think about
and write down their individual responses.

T: Ok lets take a look at these two molecules. What do you notice about them, what do you
think? [Calls on a student.]

S: They’re different.

T: How are they different?

S: Well, on the maleic acid one of the carbons is flipped upside-down.

S: I think they’ll smell putrid [he is correctly making a connection to the theme of the unit
that relates structure to smell]

T: Eyes up here. Well, we’re going to see today if they are different or not.

Very short discussion of the Chem Catalyst—students do not have a working hypthesis to
direct their laboratory work.


Students are filling in their observations on the worksheets.

T: Folks eyes up here. This is what I want from you. I’m going to have you each turn in lab
individually. You need to get everything finished up. I will collect the lab reports first
thing tomorrow. OK, so what happened? We said before that they would have the same
properties [not reflected in the actual transcript of the Chem Catalyst]. Did they?

S: No. There were more bubbles with the maleic acid.

T: OK, obviously the two acids had different reactions, so they must not be able to spin
around that double bond. That’s what makes a double bond so important. So you need to
finish this up and hand it in for tomorrow.

Very short discussion. He only briefly discussed one experimental result (‘‘bubbling’’) and
generated a conclusion himself from that one result. This was not an issue of running out of
time as the last 20 minutes following this discussion were individual work time to complete
the lab report.

Although Mike had predominantly transitional and responsive beliefs, it appeared that his
lack of experience with inquiry teaching hindered the level of inquiry teaching demonstrated in his
observed lessons. For some of the other beginning teachers in this group who had predominantly
teacher-centered (traditional and instructive) beliefs it was apparent that their beliefs influenced
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their classroom practices. In the following excerpt form the postbeliefs interview Amy discussed
her reactions to the curriculum

To do inquiry you have to have students who want to learn, who have the background to
learn, these students have low level ability in math and haven’t been successful in school. If
I had taught through inquiry, well, so I did a lot of lecturing and peer work. I’d give a
problem, they did it and then we’d check it together. . . .

I went to a school in [an affluent local high school] and we learned moles early. . . This is
like middle school stuff the way they are learning. Toxins [unit 4 where the mole concept is
used for stoichiometry] should have been taught as the first thing. Matter [unit 1] could
have been taught later....

10th graders shouldn’t be taught chemistry, they don’t have the math background. I’d put
toxins [unit 4 which is highly mathematical] first. Next year I’ll probably condense Smells
[covalent bonding and the relationship between structure and properties] about how things
smell. Some of that was fun for the students, the functional groups made it relevant. Smells
was good. Maybe I would do Smells then Toxins?

Amy held firm beliefs about how chemistry should be taught, with an emphasis on
mathematical problem solving. She also did not believe that her students were capable of learning
chemistry in an inquiry setting and changed the lesson to be more traditional.

Inquiry Teachers
Teachers in this group also followed the curriculum closely, keeping all aspects of the lessons
intact. However, these teachers were distinguishable by their interactions with students in small
and whole group discussions, use of cooperative group work, requiring students to formulate their
own understandings from data, and class discussion and sharing of ideas. The following excerpt
from Leslie’s enactment of the properties of maleic and formic acid laboratory is in contrast to
Mike’s excerpt from the mechanistic group.

Chem Catalyst

T: I’d like you to write the molecular and structural formulas for the following two
molecules (ball and stick representations of maleic and formic acid are on the
overhead). Are these two representations of the same molecule? Why? Why not? Do
you expect these two molecules to have similar properties? Why? Why not?

Students are given time to write and discuss with their partner.

T: OK—what about the molecular formulas?

S1: Both are C4H4O4.

T: So are they the same molecule?

S1: No.

T: Why not?

S1: They have different structural formulas.

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T: Does everyone agree?

S2: No, they have the same bonds between the atoms.

T: So is anything different between them?

S2: The arrangement is different [one is the cis and one the trans isomer]

S3: Yeah, so the shape is kind of different.

S4: But that’s just the other one flipped over.

T: So you’re saying if I turn this [she is pointing to the carbon–carbon double bond] they
are the same? So would they have the same properties?

Most student respond in the affirmative.

T: It sounds like you are predicting that because the structures are the same that they have
the same properties?

S3: So I was wrong? [This is the student who originally stated that the structures were

T: Let’s test our individual predictions and then we’ll know who is right.

Several students are involved in the discussion and each student has a prediction
connecting structure to properties to guide their laboratory work.

Wrapup (small group)

T: Question 3 is asking you if it is possible to just flip it around this bond and get the same
molecule. [She uses a molecular model to show what she means.] See if I can turn it so
they are in fact the same molecule. So can I just flip them around? Remember that you
are to use your experimental data not the models.

S1: But how can they be the same when they reacted differently?

T: Ah! So can I flip it like this?

S2: No, because then they would have behaved the same in the lab.

Leslie wrapped up in small groups today as the lab took more of the 55 minute period than
she expected. She intends to start tomorrow with a large group discussion to allow groups
to compare their results.

The background of the inquiry teachers included both in-field and out-of-discipline teachers
and years of teaching experience varied from 1–24 years. However, all of these teachers held
predominantly student-centered beliefs (see Table 5). For example, when Marie was asked how
here students learned best, she responded as follows

When we did that [professional development] day on representations in chemistry, the

micro, macro, and symbolic thing, it really made sense with how students need to learn and
think. The students do well with pictures and with actually doing (hands on). Most students

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are unaccustomed to thinking and analyzing data in this way so this has guided my
teaching. Students do not work well by listening and just copying down what I say.
Basically they need to be actively involved in their learning, the hands-on activities of LBC
are good for that but I can’t just tell them so this is why you got these results—I need to use
questioning to help them develop their thinking and connect the microscopic world of
chemistry to their lab work.

Quantitative Findings
The analysis of the three groupings of teachers (traditional, mechanistic, and inquiry)
emerged from classroom practice data; however, as the cases were developed a pattern between
these practice groupings and teaching beliefs emerged. This pattern is reflected in Table 5 where
teachers’ beliefs are displayed by practice groupings.
To understand the influences of teaching beliefs on the implementation of the LBC
curriculum, a plot was generated of individual teachers’ TBI and averaged RTOP scores (Fig. 1).
The Pearson correlation of teaching beliefs and LBC classroom practices was 0.663 (p < 0.000 at
the 0.01 level, n ¼ 27). There is a clear statistical relationship between teachers’ beliefs about
teaching and learning and their classroom practice during the implementation of the reform-based

School Characteristics
Teachers’ attitudes toward and implementation of the curriculum were also impacted by
school site issues. The following section will focus on the school-based issues that emerged as
being primary influences on teacher responses to the new LBC curriculum: school-based
leadership, school scheduling, and concurrent district reform initiatives.

Leadership. Six of the school sites (Monroe, Ocean, Morrin, Cornet, Central, and Campbell)
had a full time science administrator assigned to lead and supervise science instruction at their site.
Science administrators were assigned to schools with low academic performance (see Table 2) to
support and coach teachers to improve instructional practices and monitor the achievement
of students within the sciences. Table 5 shows the distribution of teachers at a school site with
a science administrator across the emergent practice groups: 2 out of 5 traditional, 5 out of
14 mechanistic, and 4 out of 8 inquiry teachers were at schools with science administrators.
Interviews with the teachers, however, revealed that data limiting the analysis to the presence of a
science administrator was misleading. The science administrators at Cornet and Central rarely
worked with the chemistry teachers at their sites and were never present at any of the district
professional development workshops for the chemistry teachers. Central were actively preparing

Figure 1. Relationship between teaching beliefs and classroom practice.

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to move to a small school/academies structure (McAndrews & Andersen, 2002), and all of their
administration team were assigned responsibilities to this reform effort rather than the science
curricular reform. The science administrator at Cornet (a former physics teacher) was heavily
involved in the physics curriculum implementation that began the year prior to the chemistry
adoption. His time was devoted to professional development and generating district-wide
assessments related to the physics reform. Similarly, the science administrator at Ocean (a former
physics teacher) was also heavily invested in the physics curriculum implementation and had little
time to work with his chemistry teachers. The only activity that the chemistry teachers at Ocean
reported working on with their science administrator was once a semester they were videoed and
asked to reflect on their teaching with the science administrator.
The science administrators at the remaining three schools (Campbell, Morrin, and Monroe)
worked in several ways with the chemistry teachers at their sites: frequently video-taping and
reflecting on reform-based teaching, codeveloping assessments and end-of-unit tests, coanalyzing
student learning to determine necessary modifications to the curriculum. Teachers at sites with
science administrators represented four of the eight inquiry teachers and 2 of the 14 mechanistic
teachers. Teachers at these school sites were in effect members of small professional learning
communities centered not only on the implementation of the curriculum but also on student
learning. The culture at these schools was for the chemistry teachers to meet with their science
administrator to discuss the curriculum from the standpoint of student learning rather than
curriculum pacing as was common at other sites. For example, teachers at Campbell worked with
their science administrator to develop conceptual assessment items that were used as evidence in
any discussions for extending the time spent on a lesson and/or unit as well as for any
modifications to the curriculum for the following semester.
The absence of a science administrator did not necessarily mean a vacuum of leadership. Two
school sites collaborated as teams without the guidance of a science administrator: Horace High
(Roy, Joy, Robert, and Emily) and Union High (Kevin, Jose, and their colleagues). The teachers at
Horace worked together on preparing for laboratories, notebook guidelines, and common exams.
On any given day all of the teachers were teaching the same lesson with the goal of a common end
of unit exam date. As the year went on, this caused problems for Robert and Joy. Robert was
observed adding review sessions to wait for his colleagues to catch up, and Joy was observed
teaching two or three lessons in a day to be ready for the exam date, as her class was behind
schedule. The focus on collaboration, although well-intentioned, did not focus on classroom
practices and student learning as was the case at sites with a dedicated science administrator. At
Union, the teachers worked together to prepare laboratories and provide support to students after
school; teachers took turns to stay after school and assist students who needed extra help or who
needed to make up a lesson. Unlike at Horace, these teachers did not align their daily teaching
schedules, but taught at a pace appropriate for them and their students. Although this allowed for a
sharing of potential pitfalls and modifications of lessons between teachers, it did not provide a
focus on student learning. In both case an experienced, reform-minded teacher took on the role as
lead teacher at these sites (e.g., Ray at Horace).
At other school sites there was limited oversight of the curriculum implementation, and
teachers were left to make their own decisions about their classroom instruction. At these sites it
was not uncommon for only one teacher to implement the curriculum with other teachers
continuing with the previous textbook, as was the case at Academic, Percy, South, Central, and
Cornet, as well as other schools not reported on in this study. Interestingly, in all cases of a single
teacher implementing the curriculum it was a beginning teacher. At some sites the physical
structure or schedule of the school was not conducive for teacher collaboration. For example, Fred
and Leslie worked at the same school in buildings at opposite ends of the campus and never
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

communicated except at the district-wide professional development sessions. Even for teachers
within the same building the lack of a common planning periods and the added pressure of
multiple preparations created a reality in which teachers implemented the curriculum in isolation
from colleagues in the same building. In these cases, where the physical structure of the school
and/or day and the lack of leadership to bring teachers together as a team, teachers’ individual
beliefs and knowledge were the primary forces driving classroom practices, as discussed earlier in
the findings section.

Scheduling. Three different bell schedules were operating within the 12 schools in this study:
traditional 55-minute periods that meet every day (Horace, Academic, Percy, Union), alternating
block where classes met for 90 minutes every other day (Ocean, Southridge, Monroe, South, and
Morrin), and full block where classes meet for 90 minutes every day for a semester (Central,
Campbell, and Cornet). The LBC curriculum was written for a traditional bell schedule so schools
on any type of block schedule had to adjust the curriculum for their schedule. School sites with an
actively involved science administrator had routine meeting to discuss pacing and how to
condense lessons to allow two lessons to be taught in a block period while maintaining the critical
components of the curriculum. At other sites teachers made individual decisions about pacing, and
it was not uncommon to see up to 30 minutes of wasted classroom time at the end of a block period
when students had completed one lesson and the teacher was not prepared to start a new lesson in
the remaining time or to see this time used to complete an additional teacher-generated worksheet.
Scheduling issues were the most common complaint of both teachers and students during the year.
As these issues were not being handled at the site level, a district level team were assigned to work
on this issue over the summer.

Concurrent Reform Initiatives. Most of the high schools in the district were involved in other
reform initiatives, for example, the district High School Renewal Initiative, as well as the science
curricula reforms. Four sites in this study had multiple reform agendas that competed significantly
for the teachers’ time and the goals of the science curriculum. Three school sites (Central,
Campbell, and Union) were concurrently implementing the district science reforms and planning
to move to a ‘‘schools within a school’’ or ‘‘academies’’ structure (McAndrews & Andersen, 2002)
the following year, with a fourth school (Morrin) planning to move to a small schools environment
within 2 years. As discussed previously, this took time away from the science administrators, but
teachers were also being asked to work in crossdisciplinary teams and plan a more thematic
curriculum that would require significant modifications to the LBC curriculum.
Schools who had met their academic progress benchmarks designated by the state (Horace,
Southridge, Academic, Percy, and Union) were working with a different reform agenda to increase
the academic ‘‘rigor’’ of their instructional programs and improve student performance (this being
measured primarily by standardized test scores and college entrance requirements). Leadership in
these schools that focused on external measures of success tended to create a climate where
teachers questioned the academic rigor of the LBC curriculum. End of year discussions about the
effectiveness of the curriculum with teachers at schools with a focus on academic rigor were
always focused on major changes in the curriculum for the upcoming school year. For example, all
of these schools intended to drop the second unit in the LBC curriculum because they felt it did not
match well with the topics covered on the state’s standardized chemistry test. This is an interesting
contrast to school sites like Campbell that used student feedback and conceptual assessments
designed to understand student learning in their own classrooms.
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

This study was conducted to understand the differences between teachers’ implementation of
a reform-based curriculum. Understanding the nature of a curricular implementation is a complex
task; this study focused on teacher and school factors that impacted teachers’ classroom practices
with the curriculum. From our study, it is evident that teaching beliefs and school support played a
large role in the nature of the curriculum implementation.
This study supports the findings of other researchers (i.e., Richardson, 1996; Tobin &
McRobbie, 1996) that teaching beliefs have a significant impact on teaching practices and
curricular implementations. Inquiry teachers all held predominantly transitional and reform-
based beliefs, whereas the traditional teachers all held predominantly traditional beliefs about
teaching and learning. The group of mechanistic teachers, however, held a variety of beliefs with
some predominantly transitional/reform-based and others predominantly traditional. Although
beliefs are clearly a driving factor in the implementation of a reform-based curriculum, this is a
complex issue with many factors at work. In considering the group of mechanistic implementers,
there are clearly other factors at the teacher level that impacted the curriculum implementation.
For 10 of the 14 teachers in this group, chemistry was an out-of-discipline teaching assignment. In
a concurrent study with these teachers content knowledge was found to impact both teachers’
confidence and ability to teach chemistry in a reform-based manner (Kruse & Roehrig, 2005). The
out-of-discipline teaching assignment situation was compounded by the fact that seven of these
teachers were beginning teachers with limited pedagogical knowledge and experience in
managing an inquiry-based classroom.
School site issues also played a big role in the implementation of the curriculum. Although
all schools were required by the district to implement the new chemistry curriculum, the level of
on-site classroom and curriculum support for teachers varied. Unfortunately, there was a vacuum
of leadership for the chemistry reforms at many schools, and teachers were left to make individual
decisions about if and how to implement the curriculum. Teachers at only five schools in this study
reported working with another teacher or administrator between the monthly district-wide
professional development workshops. Although in all cases the teachers valued this collegial
support and team planning, the support was most effective when coordinated through a science
administrator through frequent meetings focused on student learning.

Systemic curricular change across a large district, such as Ocean Valley, requires more than
support at the district level in providing resources (e.g., textbooks and supplies) and professional
development. Clearly, a critical aspect of a curricular reform is what happens at individual school
sites that can support or constrain the work of teachers in implementing the curriculum. Site
administrators need to provide structured time for teachers to work and plan together in the first
year of implementation. Ideally, a trained teacher leader would guide these planning sessions and
guide conversations toward what is best for students within the school context. As noted in this
study, these teacher leaders need the time to focus on working with teachers in implementing the
curriculum. Teacher leaders who are given other significant administrative responsibilities within
the school will not be effective in providing site-based support.
This study points to the need for science education researchers, curriculum developers, and
professional development providers to investigate curricula implementations beyond the use of
teacher self-report about their classroom practices. All of the teachers in this study stated that they
were implementing the curriculum, yet classroom observations revealed a wide range of
Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI 10.1002/tea

implementation practices. Like other researchers (Frechtling, 2000), we found it critical not only
to observe the teachers but also to talk with teachers about their instruction and decisions about
implementing the curriculum. It is through exploring teachers’ actual classroom practices and the
beliefs and knowledge that support or constrain these practices that more targeted professional
development can be implemented.

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