Maine Physical Sciences Curriculum Partnership
University of Maine


Teacher Professional Development using Iterative Inquiry-Based Chemistry Activities (pg 28) 

Mitchell Bruce, Clint Eaton, Stephanie Virgilio, Somnath Sinha, Laura Millay.

Research Subjects
Middle school Chemistry Teachers; 7th and 8th grade students

Focus of the project
In order to address the overall goal of the PSP to reform and vertically align science education in rural school districts, this chemistry project focused on improvement of teachers’ instructional strategy with regards to scientific inquiry and subsequent learning gains of students. With regard to teachers, there was one week long intensive professional development workshop during summer (2014) besides other year round workshops. This particular project focused on the week long professional development of middle school science teachers during June, 2014. The overall goals of this project are: (i) to promote teachers’ understanding of scientific inquiry, (ii) to enhance their skills of scientific communication, and (iii) to help teachers with instructional strategies in alignment with scientific inquiry.

As an extension of this above study and to gauge the impact of teachers’ learning, we also looked on students’ understanding of various scientific concepts. In that regard, we focused on two years of survey data from classes which followed the Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP) Chemistry curriculum. The purpose of this survey was to study the students’ understanding of major Chemistry concepts and their misconceptions.

Project Dates
Teacher data: Started June, 2014 and is still ongoing. Student data: 2013, 2014

Data collected
· Teacher Interviews, Teachers’ clicker responses, Teachers’ pre/post surveys, Teachers’ poster presentation
· 7th and 8th grade student survey data (survey was aligned with SEPUP IAPS curriculum)


  • Teachers’ understandings of using evidence and reasoning to support claims increased during professional development and teachers increased their skill in scientific communication as evidenced by sophistication of posters they created. One of the characteristic features of the professional development workshop – iterative cycle seemed to be contributing towards teachers’ educational gains.
  • Significant student learning gains across multiple chemistry concepts were found. For example, with regards to ‘conservation of mass,’ 52% of the students answered with the correct response post instruction with an overall learning gain of 28%


List of publications or presentations directly related to this project
Sinha, S., Eaton, C., Virgilio, S., Bruce, M. R. M., & Millay, L. A. (2015, February) Teacher growth during chemistry professional development and middle school student learning of chemistry content through innovative science partnership in the Maine PSP. Poster presented at the 2015 meeting of International Teacher-Scientist Partnership Conference. San Francisco, CA.

Bruce, M.R.M., Eaton, C., Bruce, A., Sinha, S., Millay, L.A., Haynes, B, & Kumpa, B. (2016 April) Teacher Professional Development Using Iterative Inquiry- Based Chemistry Activities. MainePSP Seventh Year Research Report, 2016-17 30

Present white paper at the 2016 meeting of National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST). Baltimore, MD.