Caught in the Balance: An Organizational Analysis of Science Teaching in Schools With Elementary Science Specialists

Full Description: 

Elementary schools are under increasing pressure to teach science and teach it well; yet, research documents that classroom teachers must overcome numerous personal and school-based challenges to teach science effectively at this level, such as access to materials and inadequate instructional time. The elementary science specialist model represents an alternative to the traditional model of classroom teachers providing science instruction. Although changing who teaches science may remove personal challenges, we do not know if the specialist alone can overcome the school-based challenges to teaching science. This study explored how school supports for science teaching varied across five elementary schools with science specialists through a qualitative comparative case study methodology. Drawing upon theory from organizational studies, school supports were conceptualized as four interrelated dimensions: (1) leadership, (2) resources, (3) culture, and (4) the external environment. Findings indicate that the science specialist model alone is insufficient to overcome school-based challenges to science teaching. Findings also reveal the potential danger of the specialist model to marginalize science as a content area. Overall, this study clarifies the importance of the principal to provide schoolwide leadership for science and to establish the value of science necessary to support a strong elementary science program.


Lisa M. Marco-Bujosa, Abigail Jurist Levy

Publication Date: 



26 pp.
Science Teaching in Schools With Elementary Science Specialists