Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 367–385 | Cite as

The Effect of a State Department of Education Teacher Mentor Initiative on Science Achievement

  • Stephen L. PruittEmail author
  • Carolyn S. Wallace


This study investigated the effectiveness of a southern state’s department of education program to improve science achievement through embedded professional development of science teachers in the lowest performing schools. The Science Mentor Program provided content and inquiry-based coaching by teacher leaders to science teachers in their own classrooms. The study analyzed the mean scale scores for the science portion of the state’s high school graduation test for the years 2004 through 2007 to determine whether schools receiving the intervention scored significantly higher than comparison schools receiving no intervention. The results showed that all schools achieved significant improvement of scale scores between 2004 and 2007, but there were no significant performance differences between intervention and comparison schools, nor were there any significant differences between various subgroups in intervention and comparison schools. However, one subgroup, economically disadvantaged (ED) students, from high-level intervention schools closed the achievement gap with ED students from no-intervention schools across the period of the study. The study provides important information to guide future research on and design of large-scale professional development programs to foster inquiry-based science.


Science education Coaching Mentoring Inquiry Economically disadvantaged 


  1. Alparson, C., Tekkaya, C., & Geban, O. (2003). Using the conceptual change instruction to improve learning. Journal of Biological Education, 37(3), 133–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ball, D., & Cohen, D. (1999). Developing practice, developing practitioners: Toward a practice-based theory of professional education. In G. Sykes & L. Darling-Hammond (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice (pp. 3–32). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Basu, S., & Barton, A. (2007). Developing a sustained interest in science among urban minority youth. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(3), 466–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(3), 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.Google Scholar
  6. Butler, D. L., Novak Lauscher, H., Jarvis-Selinger, S., & Beckingham, B. (2004). Collaboration and self regulation in teachers’ professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 435–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bybee, R. (2009). Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006 and scientific literacy: A perspective for science education leaders. Science Educator, 18(2), 1–14.Google Scholar
  8. Bybee, R., McCray, B., & Laurie, R. (2009). PISA: An assessment of scientific literacy. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(8), 865–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dossey, J.A., McCrone, S.A., & O’Sullivan, C. (2006). Problem solving in the PISA and TIMSS 2003 assessments (NCES 2007-049). U. S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved August 25, 2009 from
  10. Eisenhart, M., Finkel, E., & Marion, S. (1996). Creating the conditions for scientific literacy: A reexamination. American Educational Research Journal, 33, 261–296.Google Scholar
  11. Geier, R., Blumenfeld, P., Marx, R., Krajcik, J., Fishman, B., Solloway, E., et al. (2008). Standardized test outcomes for students engaged in inquiry-based science curricula in the context of urban reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(8), 922–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Huck, S. W. (2000). Reading statistics and research. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.Google Scholar
  13. Huffman, D., Thomas, K., & Lawrenz, F. (2003). Relationships between professional development, teachers’ instructional practices, and the achievement of students in science and mathematics. School Science and Mathematics, 103(8), 378–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jeanpierre, B., Oberhauser, K., & Freeman, C. (2005). Characteristics of professional development that effect change in secondary science teachers’ classroom practices. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(6), 668–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson, C. C. (2007). Whole-school collaborative sustained professional development and science teacher change: Signs of progress. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 629–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Johnson, C. C. (2009). An examination of effective practice: Moving toward elimination of achievement gaps in science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20, 287–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson, C. C. (2010). Making the case for school-based systemic reform in science education. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21, 279–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Keys, C. W., & Bryan, L. A. (2001). Co-constructing inquiry-based science with teachers: Essential research for lasting reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 631–645.Google Scholar
  19. Kimble, L. L., Yager, R. E., & Yager, S. O. (2006). Success of a professional-development model in assisting teachers to change their teaching to match the more emphasis conditions urged in the National Science Education Standards. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 17, 309–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Klum, G., & Stuessy, C. (1992). Assessment in science and mathematics education reform (Chapter 5). In G. Klum & S. Malcom (Eds.), Science assessment in the service of reform. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  21. Lee, O., Buxton, C., Lewis, S., & LeRoy, K. (2006). Science inquiry and student diversity: Enhanced abilities and continuing difficulties after an instructional intervention. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(7), 607–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lemke, J. L. (2001). Articulating communities: Sociocultural perspectives on science education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(3), 296–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lynch, S., Kuipers, J., Pyke, C., & Szesze, M. (2005). Examining the effects of a highly rated science curriculum unit on diverse students: Results from a planning grant. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41, 720–747.Google Scholar
  24. Mastropieri, M., & Scruggs, T. (2006). Differentiated curriculum enhancement in inclusive middle school science: Effects on classroom and high-stakes tests. Journal of Special Education, 40(3), 130–137.Google Scholar
  25. McCarthy, C. B. (2005). Effects of thematic-based, hands-on science teaching versus a textbook approach for students with disabilities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(3), 245–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Melville, W., & Bartley, A. (2010). Mentoring and community: Inquiry as stance and science as inquiry. International Journal of Science Education, 32(6), 807–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. National Center for Educational Statistics. (1995) Third International Mathematics and Science Study. 1995. Retrieved October 15, 2003 from .
  28. National Center for Educational Statistics. (2000). National Assessment of Educational Progress. Retrieved Mar 21, 2004 from .
  29. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  30. Olson, S., & Loucks-Horsley, S. (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  31. Peneul, W. R., McWilliams, H., McAuliffe, C., Benbow, A. E., Mably, C., & Hayden, M. M. (2009). Teaching for understanding in earth science: Comparing impacts on planning and instruction in three professional development designs for middle school science teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20, 415–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Penfield, R., & Lee, O. (2010). Test-based accountability: Potential benefits and pitfalls of science assessment with student diversity. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(1), 6–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peressini, D., Borko, H., Romagnano, L., Knuth, E., & Willis, C. (2004). A conceptual framework for learning to teach secondary mathematics: A situated perspective. Education Studies in Mathematics, 56(1), 67–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. PISA (2009) Assessment framework key competencies in reading, mathematics and science (pp. 125–148). (Adobe Digital Editions), Retrieved from
  35. Putnam, R., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 29(1), 4–15.Google Scholar
  36. Saurino, D., & Saurino, P. (1999). Making efficient use of mentoring programs: a collaborative group action research approach. Proceedings of the Annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (pp. 1–18). Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  37. Schroeder, C. M., Scott, T. P., Tolson, H., Huang, T.-Y., & Lee, Y.-H. (2007). A meta-analysis of national research: Effects of teaching strategies on student achievement in the United States. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(10), 1436–1460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schwab, J. J. (1964). The teaching of science as enquiry. In Schwab, J. J. & Brandwein, P. F. (Eds.), The teaching of science, (pp. 3–103). Cambridge, MA: Havard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Spillane, J., Reiser, B., & Reimer, T. (2002). Policy implementation and cognition: Reframing and refocusing implementation research. Review of Educational Research, 72(3), 387–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. State Education Agency, (2004). High school graduation test results.Google Scholar
  41. State Education Agency, (2005a). High school graduation test results.Google Scholar
  42. State Education Agency, (2005b). Science mentor handbook.Google Scholar
  43. State Education Agency, (2006). High school graduation test results.Google Scholar
  44. State Education Agency, (2007a). High school graduation test results.Google Scholar
  45. State Education Agency, (2007b). HSGT science content descriptors.Google Scholar
  46. Supovitz, J. A., & Turner, H. (2000). The effects of professional development on science teaching practices and classroom culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 963–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. von Secker, C. (2002). Effects of inquiry-based teacher practices on science excellence and equity. The Journal of Educational Research, 95(3), 151–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Warren, B., Ballenger, C., Ogonowski, M., Rosebery, A., & Hudicourt-Barnes, J. (2001). Rethinking diversity in learning science: The logic of everyday sense-making. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(5), 529–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wallace, C. S., & Priestley, M. (2011). Teacher beliefs and the mediation of curriculum in Scotland: A socio-cultural perspective on professional development and change. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43(3), 357–381.Google Scholar
  50. Wilson, M., & Bertenthal, M. (2005). Systems for state science assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  51. Wilson, C., Taylor, J., Kowalski, S., & Carlson, J. (2010). The relative effects and equity of inquiry-based and commonplace science teaching on students’ knowledge, reasoning, and argumentation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(3), 276–301.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Achieve, Inc.WashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Science EducationIndiana State UniversityTerre HauteUSA

Personalised recommendations