Research in Science Education

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 191–218 | Cite as

The Role of Informal Support Networks in Teaching the Nature of Science

  • Benjamin C . HermanEmail author
  • Joanne K. Olson
  • Michael P. Clough


This study reports the participation of 13 secondary science teachers in informal support networks and how that participation was associated with their nature of science (NOS) teaching practices 2 to 5 years after having graduated from the same science teacher education program. The nine teachers who participated in informal support networks taught the NOS at high/medium levels, while the four non-participating teachers taught the NOS at low levels. The nine high/medium NOS implementation teachers credited the informal support networks for maintaining/heightening their sense of responsibility for teaching NOS and for helping them navigate institutional constraints that impede effective NOS instruction. Several high/medium NOS instruction implementers initially struggled to autonomously frame and resolve the complexities experienced in schools and thus drew from the support networks to engage in more sophisticated forms of teacher decision-making. In contrast, the NOS pedagogical decisions of the four teachers not participating in support networks were governed primarily by the expectations and constraints experienced in their schools. Implications of this study include the need for reconsidering the structure of teacher mentorship programs to ensure they do not promote archaic science teaching practices that are at odds with reform efforts in science education.


Nature of science teaching Teacher socialization Mentoring and support 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin C . Herman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joanne K. Olson
    • 2
  • Michael P. Clough
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Learning, Teaching and CurriculumThe University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture443 Harrington Tower, Texas A & M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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