Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication Department


First Advisor

Dr. Taylor Ruth

Second Advisor

Dr. Nathan Conner

Third Advisor

Dr. Bryan Reiling

Date of this Version

Spring 5-2023


Harmon, K. L. (2023). The impact an inquiry-based learning professional development has on science and agricultural teachers' intent to use animal science concepts as a context for teaching science [Master's thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln].


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Leadership Education, Under the Supervision of Professor Taylor Ruth. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Kasey L. Harmon


There is an emerging need for Tennessee and Nebraska high school students to increase their science proficiency. It is important that students are science literate to equip them with basic science skills needed for the workforce. Science literacy enables students to problem solve efficiently, appropriately assess societal issues, and make informed decisions. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is a teaching strategy that has been shown to positively impact students’ ability to critically think and make informed decisions. Since IBL and agricultural education are centered around experiential learning, combining them gives students the opportunity to learn science in a real-world context. However, previous research indicates that teachers are not prepared to teach with IBL. To increase teacher confidence and prepare them to facilitate IBL, professional development (PD) should be offered. Prior studies prove that effective PD for teachers is successful in positively changing teachers’ attitudes toward using new teaching strategies.

This thesis aims to evaluate the impacts of a PD on science and agriscience teachers’ intent to use IBL animal science concepts as a context for teaching science. The PD focused on how to effectively lesson plan and facilitate lessons using IBL animal science concepts. One qualitative and one quantitative study was conducted using the Theory of Planned Behavior as the framework. The qualitative study sought to discover how participation in an IBL PD impacts science and agriscience teachers’ attitudes, perceived behavioral control, subjective norms, and intent to use the IBL animal science lessons. The quantitative study’s purpose was to describe the impact that an IBL PD had on science and agriscience teachers' intent to use IBL animal science concepts. Findings show that teacher intent to integrate the IBL animal science concepts was positively impacted after participating in the PD. Teachers possessed positive attitudes toward using IBL animal science concepts and showed an increased confidence in facilitating the lessons. The findings from this thesis provide valuable insight to successful teacher PD components and how to increase teachers’ ability to facilitate IBL to ultimately enable high school students to enhance their science proficiency.

Advisor: Taylor Ruth