Using sociocultural theory to understand the relationship between teacher change and a science-based professional education program

Catherine Milne, Kathryn Scantlebury, Tracey Otieno

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


This paper focuses on a model of teacher change based on a study of a science discipline-based professional education program and on an understanding of teacher change in terms of an agency| structure dialectic. Professional education programs should expand teachers' capacity to act in a range of fields. Conducted over one year, this study used socio-cultural theory to examine the role of cultural schema and resources in the enactment of new pedagogical structures by two teachers who demonstrated widely variable responses to their experience of a professional chemistry education program. Hermeneutic and phenomenological methods of study supported the examination of teacher actions and narratives as sources of data. The analyses of these data sources resulted in greater understanding of the relationship between schema, resources and structure and the relationship between structure and teacher agency. Structures are dynamic and if a teacher uses a resource such as an inquiry-based instruction protocol without the attendant cultural schema such as the value of questioning then the structure that is implemented will be different from that the teacher experienced in the professional education program. This understanding supported an explanation of teacher change in terms of teacher agency that constituted our learning from the study and resulted in changes to aspects of the professional education program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-352
Number of pages28
JournalCultural Studies of Science Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006



  • Agency
  • Cultural capital
  • Social capital
  • Structure
  • Teacher change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies

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