Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Deborah Focarile


The majority of Grade 5 students demonstrate limited science knowledge on state assessments. This trend has been documented since 2010 with no evidence of improvement. Because state accountability formulas include proficiency scores and carry sanctions against districts that fail to meet proficiency thresholds, improved student performance in science is an important issue to school districts. The purpose of this study was to explore elementary teachers' perceptions about their students' science knowledge, the strategies used to teach science, the barriers affecting science teaching, and the self-efficacy beliefs teachers maintain for teaching science. This study, guided by Vygotsky's social constructivist theory and Bandura's concept of self-efficacy, was a bounded instrumental case study in which 15 participants, required to be teaching K-5 elementary science in the county, were interviewed. An analytic technique was used to review the qualitative interview data through open coding, clustering, and analytical coding resulting in identified categorical themes that addressed the research questions. Key findings reflect students' limited content knowledge in earth and physical science. Teachers identified barriers including limited science instructional time, poor curricular resources, few professional learning opportunities, concern about new state standards, and a lack of teaching confidence. To improve student content knowledge, teachers identified the need for professional development. The project is a professional development series provided by a regional education service agency for K-5 teachers to experience science and engineering 3-dimensional learning. Area students will demonstrate deeper science content knowledge and benefit from improved science instructional practice and learning opportunities to become science problem solvers and innovative contributors to society.