S. Freire, C. Faria, M. Baptista, C. Galvão, A.M. Freire

Instituto de Educação da Universidade de Lisboa (PORTUGAL)
International recommendations point the need to implement inquiry environments. In order to accomplish this, it is required from the educational community a new understanding concerning the role of science teachers. Studies centered on educational change reveal that changing teachers’ conceptions and practices is not easy. Main barriers relate to unfavorable school culture, a sense of uncertainty concerning change and lack of competencies to interpret and to implement new curriculum guidelines. Considering these issues, many authors agreed on new models regarding education programs, which appeal to teachers’ active, reflective involvement with their own practices and conceptions. Aligned with these ideas and with the Portuguese curriculum guidelines for basic science education, one of the researchers developed an in-service program focused on inquiry-based activities, which goals were to support and to involve science teachers in developing new curricular materials and teaching-learning strategies. During this program, teachers worked collaboratively with the science researcher in order to conceive and implement inquiry activities, to collect data concerning students learning and to evaluate activities and its impact on students. The present study is a follow-up study aimed at understanding the durability of those enacted changes and factors that affect perseverance of changes. In this communication we will present data concerning one of the science teachers. During the overall collaborative process of planning and implementing inquiry activities, she went through several changes. The follow-up study was developed on three different classes, one year after the program. Data was collected through a questionnaire to the students, by means of an interview to the teacher and teacher written notes. 65 students of the 3rd cycle of Basic Education were inquired. According to students’, few inquiry-based activities were developed. When these activities were developed, they were organized and planned only by the teacher, with a very little, if some, involvement of students in their planning, or even in the decision about the subject to be investigated. Concerning the teacher, despite considering inquiry-based activities useful for students, she decided not to use them in classroom. Reasons pointed were: time constrains, students’ lack of competencies to implement inquiry activities, and negative pressures from colleagues concerning this type of activities. Results show that there is a gap between ideas hold by the teacher and her practices. Concerning this gap and the positive changes that occurred during the year of in-service program, the results suggest that reflexive and teacher centered models of in-service education are essential for promoting changes, but are not sufficient to maintain the newly acquired practices and conceptions. It is necessary to continuously involve and support teachers with change. Networks among science teachers and science researchers that facilitate the creation of safe spaces that validates and ensures teachers concerning their own practices and that empowers them to deal with barriers to innovation can be a valuable path.