Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Kent Seidel, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Douglas Allen

Third Advisor

Susan Korach

Fourth Advisor

Paul Michalec


Aligned curriculum, Classroom environment, Constructivist science instruction, Inquiry-based science instruction, State standards


This is an exploratory case study looking at the practices in one Colorado K-8 school that had students performing at or above the 75th percentile on the eighth grade Science Colorado Assessment of Student Progress (CSAP) in 2009. This study attempted to answer the question: What are the instructional choices, classroom environments, interventions, and school practices in place in one K-8 school that is supporting traditionally underserved populations of students in the learning of science? This school appears to be meeting the needs of their traditionally underserved students as evidenced by the percent of students in these populations at this school that were performing at or above the proficient level on the Science CSAP in 2009, higher than both state averages and their district averages for these groups.

This study utilized two teacher survey instruments to define instructional choices and classroom environments, a revised RAND survey developed by Le et al. (2006, p. 91) and a constructivist learning environment survey developed by Johnson and McClure (2004, p. 65), CLES2(20). Questionnaires were developed to guide interviews with the principal and lead science teacher to identify resources, interventions, and professional development in place at their school. Two observation protocols were developed to systematize data pertaining to curriculum documents, the school visit, and classroom observations at each site.

In every class the primary activity was hands-on investigations, to introduce a topic of study, to further investigate a topic, and to learn about collecting and organizing data. Science note booking was evident in every class every day. Students were not doing worksheets or reading and answering questions from the textbook. It was evident that students were safe and felt valued in each of their science classes. Student talk and collaboration was the norm in every class. Every class was highly diverse, with students of all backgrounds collaborating to investigate scientific phenomena with a plethora of science equipment, tools, and supplies. Each class had a highly qualified science teacher. The school as a whole and thereby each class had an average socio-economic level higher than the district average. School D has a principal focused on student achievement data, using them to focus planning, instruction, and interventions and there was a system of grade level collaboration that could be focused on science instruction.

One challenge noted during this exploratory case study was the weak connection at the K-5 level between the district science curriculum and the state content standards in science. The district curriculum did not articulate the science content or process skills that students are to come away with at the end of each instructional year. It would be in the district's best interest to clarify and articulate a specific sequence of science instruction. Professional development in science both at the district level and at the school level for all grades, K-8, is another challenge area for School D. Through collaborative planning would be helpful in building a more complete understanding of the science learning expectations in both content and inquiry-oriented learning goals. Professional development in inquiry processes and inquiry-based science instruction is vital to support teachers in providing the cyclical, reiterative science processes described in the literature.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Lucinda Howe


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

239 p.


Science education, Education policy, Educational leadership