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Making It Work: Three Case Study Narratives from a Secondary Science Professional Development Program

Abstract

This paper presents three cases from the evaluation of the National Science Foundation funded professional development program for high school teachers of the physical sciences, the Mississippi Academy for Science Teaching (Project MAST). Project MASTs professional development program is intensive and content-driven.
Teachers attend a three-week summer institute consisting of day long workshops at the university where Project MAST is based. They return during the academic year for five Saturday workshops. Workshop sessions are guided by the state curriculum framework for the five physical sciences: physics, chemistry, physical science, earth science and astronomy.

The case studies presented offer individualized, qualitative narratives of the ways in which teachers past and present experiences mediate their ability to make professional development meaningful and feasible in their classrooms. Ultimately, all professional development like politics is local; large-scale, statewide professional development initiatives must be cognizant of school and teacher-specific contexts and challenges if their programs are to be truly successful. This study has implications for making large-scale professional development sensitive to local contexts, and for establishing school or district policies and practices that optimize professional development implementation in classrooms.

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