Learning progressions as tools for supporting teacher content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge about water in environmental systems

Kristin L. Gunckel, Beth A. Covitt, Ivan Salinas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Research on learning progressions has led to advances in understanding student learning about big ideas in science, but teachers struggle to leverage the full potential of learning progressions for classroom instruction. Because learning progressions lay out how students' ideas change over a long period of time, learning progressions could help teachers build better understanding of student thinking, appropriate learning goals, and instructional moves for supporting students in developing more sophisticated ideas. In this study, we explored the potential of learning progression-based curriculum materials to support teachers in developing more sophisticated content knowledge (CK) and pedagocial content knowledge (PCK) for teaching about water in environmental systems. Teachers participated in professional development that introduced them to a learning progression for water in environmental systems and curriculum materials based on this learning progression. Teachers completed written assessments of their CK and PCK prior to the workshops and a year later. Analyses showed that teachers who taught lessons using the learning progression-based curriculum materials showed modest increases in CK, knowledge of learning goals, and knowledge of student thinking. These increases were greater than analogous changes evident for teachers who did not use the curriculum materials. However, even among those who implemented the curriculum materials, teachers' post-assessment performance did not yet reflect knowledge for supporting students in developing model-based reasoning about water. These results show that learning progressions have potential for supporting teacher learning, but that the ubiquity of traditional school science discourse may limit their potential for both student and teacher progress toward model-based reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1339-1362
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • content knowledge
  • learning progressions
  • pedagogical content knowledge


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