Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association: San Diego, CA, 2009


Copyright (c) 2009 the authors.


This study focuses on elementary teachers' conceptions of flooding before and after inquiry-based Earth science content-based professional development. Several misconceptions emerged from the science content two tier pre-post test, some of which persisted throughout the institute while others led to evidence of teachers' conceptual change. On the post-test some teachers' ideas emerged as hybrid conceptions as they applied newly acquired academic language to prior conceptions. There was a significant increase (n = 17, mean gain = 4.3 (SD = 3.27, t (17) = 5.69, p < .000) from the pre- to post-test. The concepts most resistant to change from pre- to post-test were analyzing an overall topographic region, reading a map image, and hydrograph interpretation. The highest frequency of hybrid conceptions occurred as teachers attempted to add new academic language, such as storm surge and discharge, to their prior understandings. Teachers’ greatest conceptual change occurred in understanding the probability and role of ground conditions in flooding events. Teachers demonstrated significant growth in their understanding of flooding concepts through scaffolded inquiry lessons modeled through the professional development. Teachers who had greater levels of prior knowledge showed the most change to a normative view of flooding. This speaks to the importance of building teachers' background knowledge before initiating professional development with complex science concepts.