Collaborative CPD and inquiry-based science in the classroom
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is crucial for reforming science teaching, but more knowledge is needed about how to embed CPD in teachers’ daily work. The Danish QUEST-project is a long-term collaborative CPD-project designed informed by research and with activities changing rhythmically between seminars, individual trials in own classroom, and collaborative activities in the science-team at local schools. The QUEST research is aimed at understanding the relation between individual and social changes. In this study, quantitative data are used to compare the perceived effect from QUEST on the teaching of science and on collaboration. Qualitative data obtained by following the same teacher teaching Science & Technology from 4th to 6th grade are used to discuss changes in her classroom practice; in particular concerning inquiry-based methods shown in earlier QUEST-research to be understood as merely hands-on activities. In-depth understanding from the case contributed to further understand the quantitative results. Findings reveal a moderate positive correlation between teachers’ reports about changing classroom practice as a consequence of participating in QUEST, and their reports about changes in collaboration. The case-teacher emphasized a high degree of changes in her classroom practice. Her more or less tacit beliefs in the importance of students exploring and inquiring in order to learn science were confirmed. She grew to be more confident and explicit about students’ minds-on: how to support student learning, and this contributed to her experience of benefitting from QUEST. The effect on local collaboration was more diffuse, but autonomous initiatives taken indicated some level of collaborative agency. The results all in all indicate that teachers’ collaborative and individual inquiries into students learning mediated by the QUEST-rhythm can be mutually constitutive. Findings from the case study accentuate the importance of talking about professional learning driven by teachers’ intentionality, rather than professional development as something done to someone.