Dissertations and Theses @ UNI

Award Winner

Recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.

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Open Access Dissertation


Academic achievement--Middle West--Forecasting; Science--Study and teaching (Elementary); Science--Study and teaching (Middle school); Teachers--Middle West--Attitudes;


The quest to find the most effective approach to teach science has challenged teachers and scholars for decades (Ford, 2012; Kuhn, 2010a; Duschl, Schweingruber, & Shouse, 2007). Unfortunately, the recent push for quality science education in schools has not yet resulted in higher achievement on standardized science assessments in the United States. The increased focus on science in school and the lack of growth on national and international standardized assessment has led to reformed-based policies, such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), that ask teachers to teach in a way that emulates the practices of scientific inquiry, including argument-based inquiry.

Current literature suggests that using dialogic feedback is an effective way to promote scientific argumentation in classrooms (Chin, 2007), yet we know very little about what teachers need to know in order to provide effective dialogic feedback in an argument-based inquiry classroom. A type of knowledge that may be essential for teachers to access and use, especially when providing feedback, is one about which little is known: teachers’ task-specific knowledge of learners’ understanding of science concepts. In this study, I used a method for capturing this type of teacher knowledge and explored its relationship to instructional decision-making and, ultimately, to student achievement in science.

Specifically, I examined the links among teachers’ knowledge of students’ understanding of scientific concepts, the type of feedback teachers gave, and students’ science achievement outcomes in classrooms that encourage argument-based inquiry. Teachers’ knowledge of science learners was measured using a teacher judgment accuracy task. Teachers in the study predicted how well their students would perform on specific items on a science assessment. To tap into teachers’ instructional decision making, the dialogic feedback they provided in a video-taped science lesson was measured using an observational coding scheme developed for this study.

Thirty-three third-through eighth-grade teachers in two moderate-size school districts in the mid-west United States participated in the study. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationships among the variables, and dialogic feedback was found to be a significant predictor of student outcomes on the science section of the Iowa Assessments, accounting for a large amount of the variance in those scores. Judgment accuracy was not a significant predictor of student outcomes and accounted for much less variance in the scores than did dialogic feedback. Interaction effects were investigated through separate moderation and mediation analyses, and neither produced statistically significant results.

Results of this study are discussed in terms of their potential to provide insights into teacher knowledge of learners and an instructional decision-making practice (dialogic feedback). These results have the potential to add to our understanding of teachers’ knowledge of learners, its relationship to instructional decision making, and its role in student achievement. Implications for both preservice teacher education and inservice professional development are discussed.

Year of Submission


Year of Award

2017 Award

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Elana Joram, Committee Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (ix, 141 pages)



File Format