Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

May 2008


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies. Under the Supervision of Professor L. James Walter.
Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Francis A. Tworek.


The standards and accountability movements demand that all students be given the opportunity to learn more science than ever before. However, there is much uncertainty about how educators should proceed with this task. Issues of concern include achievement gaps, tracking, and graduation requirements. The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore the challenges identified by four secondary science teachers in one urban public school district as they taught classes that included students representing a wide range of abilities and prior academic success. These mixed-ability science classes were generally defined as science classes which are required for high school graduation but which have no academic prerequisites.

The central research questions in this qualitative study were: 1) How do secondary science teachers describe the challenges they face while teaching a mixedability science course required for graduation when the course has no prerequisites; and 2) What strategies do they use to deal with these challenges? Data collection was confined to four cases within one Midwest urban school district during the 2004-2005 school year. Each case involved one class taught by an individual teacher. One case was an 8th grade science class at a middle school. The other three cases represented three district-required courses in three different high schools: 9th grade biology, 10th grade chemistry, and 11th grade physics.

Data sources included interviews with the teachers, observations in their classrooms, district achievement and demographic data, and school documents. Three themes emerged from the cross-case analysis: 1) a sense of belonging; 2) the teacher.s focus; and 3) successful learning. The final chapter discusses the implications of these themes and makes recommendations for further study.

Adviser: L. James Walter

Included in

Education Commons