Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph P. Stoltman

Second Advisor

Dr. Bill Cobern

Third Advisor

Dr. James Lewis


Place-based, science, environmental, efficacy, cognitive, professional development


This research investigated professional development in place-based (PB) methodology on the efficacy of science teachers. While teachers are expected to use best practices they do not always implement them due to a lack of efficacy in implementation. A professional development program (PD) was designed to increase confidence among teachers planning to incorporate PB methods. Place-based education (PBE) is recognized as a best-practice among professional educators. PBE includes the selection, design and engagement with science using the geographic place as the content. The literature reports that student learning and teacher efficacy will improve when teachers are prepared effectively in PB practices. This dissertation research examined the effects of PD in PB methodology and its influence on the efficacy of seven science teachers who participated in this research. An exploratory, qualitative research approach was used to study the characteristics of change among teachers. Qualitative information was collected about the teachers’ confidence with PBE methodology and practices through interviews, in reflective journals and through observations of them working with students in PB settings. Changes in teacher efficacy were accompanied by their becoming more intentional with PBE, networking with experts and expressing a commitment to connect content with the community. The consistency of changes in efficacy among the seven teachers in the study was mixed. Three of the teachers became more confident in their approach to teaching using PB methods and reported the gain in confidence was influenced by the PBE professional development. Three teachers reported that the PD had little effect on their efficacy as teachers to implement PBE. These teachers cited complications from more critical issues in their careers such as time to prepare PBE lessons and meaningful participation in the PD. Those difficulties proved to be hindrances in developing efficacy in implementing PBE. Themes emerging from this research are: PBE is accepted by teachers as a positive methodology to improve efficacy; PBE was recognized as connecting students with and engaging them in learning about their local community and environment; longevity in teaching does not equate with efficacy, and the level of efficacy improves when teachers meaningfully engage in PBE.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access