Modeling the theory of planned behavior of California secondary science teachers implementing the next generation science standards during the Covid-19 pandemic: A mixed methods study
Wygant, Heather A.
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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the centerpiece of the current research-based national science educational reform, were adopted with minor alterations by the California State Board of Education (SBE) in 2013. One intent of this adoption was to transfer secondary (grades 6-12) science teachers’ science classroom practices into the 21st century, specifically, by moving from a teacher-centered instruction to a more student-centered and active learning model. Implementation of the NGSS from 2013 - 2021 was uneven across California due to many reasons including a lack of accountability from the SBE, the absence of long-term funding for standards-based science professional development, and the lack of NGSS aligned curricular materials. In March of 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered school closures and a sudden transition of instruction from face-to-face to distance learning (DL) modalities. Consequently, with little or no time to prepare for distance learning and with little or no knowledge of distance learning pedagogy, challenges for California secondary science teachers were made evident. To explore how K-12 science teachers in California intended to address this instructional challenge, Ajzens theory of planned behavior was applied among secondary (grades 6-12) science teachers to determine how their curriculum and instructional practices shaped their behavioral intentions towards NGSS-based instructional practices via DL. This theory was chosen as the TPB combines the constructs of an individual’s attitude toward a behavior (AB), subjective norm (SN), and their perceived behavioral control (PBC) to calculate their behavioral intent (BI), and thus predict their behavior. A convergent mixed method study that merged quantitative BI survey results with the qualitative interview data to explain and elaborate the results of this research. A 56-item BI survey was adapted from Pierce’s (2018) behavioral intent survey for use with secondary science teachers in California that were already implementing NGSS prior to the pandemic closures of March 2020, then distributed via various social media outlets. One hundred and fifty-one Californian secondary science teachers participated in the survey. Seventeen survey respondents also participated in a follow up semi-structured interview, which was developed after the survey to investigate how teachers augmented their C&I practice via DL modalities. Survey results were analyzed using Pearson’s correlation, followed by a binary logistic regression, to determine the behavioral intent of teachers to continue NGSS implementation via DL modalities. Using the TPB equation of BI ~ (AB+ SN + PBC), findings were inconclusive that TPB constructs AB, SN, and PBC influenced teachers’ intent to continue NGSS implementation via DL modalities. However, the follow-up interviews provided salient findings that the TPB constructs were influencing teachers’ intentions. The 17 follow up interviews were analyzed for frequencies and trends, informed by TPB constructs and by deductive coding. Findings revealed that teachers primarily used technology tools like Google Suites, Gizmos, Pear Deck and Jamboard to continue 3D instruction via DL to foster more student-centered and active learning. Regarding the NGSS, implementation had varied across the state, districts, and even at school sites due to the lack of a clear statewide policy on DL implementation due to no accountability, a lack of readily available aligned curricular materials, and a dearth of funding for high quality science PD statewide. Consequently, teachers shared that they did not have NGSS aligned F2F curriculum adopted by their districts prior to the pandemic and were creating their own site or district-specific curricular materials within grade or course-alike professional learning communities. When the move to DL modalities came, teachers continued work in their PLCs to modify their materials to DL, often spending long hours, including weekends, to provide high quality 3D learning experiences via DL for their students. The mixed methods integration revealed that teachers who received extensive NGSS PD were more confident in 3D instructional practices, more positive toward NGSS and more certain that these were the best practices to provide students with authentic science experiences. Teachers pursued PD to bridge gaps in their practice, often at their own expense, and used informal PLCs such as the California Science Teacher Facebook groups to supplement their learning and share ideas and resources. Integration results suggest that strong PLC groups worked as teams to not only develop curricular materials relevant to their student populations, but also modified these materials to move to DL modalities. This indicates that PLCs that are at school sites and districts were an important factor in teachers intending to teach The NGSS in this period of DL. This study uniquely contributes to the literature by showing PBC as a significant contributor to teachers’ intent to implement reform initiatives, such as NGSS, when provided with sustained, high-quality professional development (PD), high-quality instructional materials and accountability for that reform. Additionally, when faced with emergency situations such as the change to DL modalities in March 2020, teachers that received DL specific PD were more confident when incorporating DL modalities into their instructional practice. Further, this study suggests that to ensure teachers continue their intent to teach NGSS, even when faced with a radically different modality like DL, there must be reforms to both policy and practice. For the former, a statewide policy with accountability measures for science, such as the inclusion of the science assessment data at equal levels as ELA and Math on the California School Dashboard, is needed to ensure statewide NGSS implementation. This includes a dedicated funding for sustained PD in NGSS, PD for the continued use of DL strategies, should additional teaching NGSS (science) continue in the DL or hybrid modalities. Regarding the latter, there is also a need for high quality NGSS instructional materials for secondary science.