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Understanding Elementary Teachers' Use of Science Teaching TIme: Lessons from the Big Sky Science Partnership


"The Big Sky Science Partnership (BSSP) serves grades K-8 science teachers in schools
on and near three American Indian reservations in Montana. The BSSP is led by Salish Kootenai
College, in partnership with Montana State University, the University of Montana, and numerous,
mostly rural, school districts. This article presents how we addressed the project's need to know
how much time teachers in the Partnership had available to teach science, how that time was
distributed and used, and key influences on teachers' decisions regarding science teaching time.
During the first full year of professional development activities in our Partnership, 2007-2008, it
became apparent that some teachers in the program allocated little time to science instruction and
that their perception was that this was for reasons beyond their control. This first came to our
attention in conversations with the teachers, and when an unexpected number of baseline
observations scheduled well in advance by staff were of lessons that were either greatly
abbreviated, sometimes lasting just fifteen minutes, or on non-science topics."