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Examining Fidelity Through Two Lenses: Teachers' Implementation of a Year-Long Curriculum in 9th Grade Physics

Abstract

Curriculum materials play a key role in improving science education; however, curricula alone will not lead to enhanced student learning. Factors such as students' opportunity to learn and the way in which teachers present science content can influence student learning. Therefore, attention to teachers' fidelity of implementation of new curricula is an important consideration in understanding the impact of new reforms on student learning. As part of an NSF-funded Math and Science Partnership, thirty-seven school districts throughout a Midwestern state were engaged in the implementation of a year-long course in freshman physics. We examined teachers' curriculum implementation and use of pedagogical practices for modeling emphasized in an intensive three-year professional development program. Results yielded four profiles or typologies of implementation, based on teachers' implementation of and adherence to the curriculum, as written: Picker & Choosers, Local Adapters, Curriculum Users, and Curriculum Discounters. While teachers' profiles appear to be a result of influences such as time constraints, as well as teachers' own preferences for particular activities and laboratories, their implementation was not statistically related to their implementation of pedagogical practices consistent with modeling instruction. This suggests further need to explore teachers' curriculum use and modification when considering student outcomes related to the curriculum.

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