Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



International Journal of Science Education 33:11 (July 15, 2011), pp. 1473–1512: doi: 10.1080/09500693.2010.506523


Copyright © 2011 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


This study focuses on elementary teachers’ comprehension of flooding before and after inquiry-based professional development (PD). There was an improvement in teachers’ understanding toward a normative view from pre- to post-test (n = 17, mean gain = 4.3, SD = 3.27). Several misunderstandings and a general lack of knowledge about flooding emerged from the geoscience content two-tier pre-test, some of which persisted throughout the PD seminar while other responses provided evidence of teachers’ improved understanding. The concepts that teachers struggled with were also apparent upon examining teachers’ reflections upon their learning and teaching practices throughout the seminar. Teachers were challenged as they attempted to add new academic language, such as storm surge and discharge, to their prior understandings. Flooding concepts that teachers showed the least improvement on included analyzing a topographic region, reading a map image, and hydrograph interpretation. Teachers’ greatest areas of improved understanding occurred in understanding the probability and role of ground conditions in flooding events. Teachers demonstrated considerable growth in their understanding of some flooding concepts through scaffolded inquiry lessons modeled throughout the PD. Those teachers who had greater prior knowledge and demonstrated more use of self-regulated learning showed the most change toward a normative view of flooding. The explicit modeling and participation in inquiry-based science activities and written responses to self-regulatory learning prompts throughout the seminar supported teachers’ learning.