First Advisor

William Becker

Date of Publication

Spring 5-27-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Teaching in General Science


Science Teaching




Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Middle school), Mathematics teachers -- Training of, Teachers -- Training of



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 137 pages)


Teachers must have specific knowledge of a subject and how to teach it to promote learning in their students (also known as pedagogical content knowledge). Research has shown that project-based curriculum can be an effective way for teachers to leverage this knowledge into deeper student understanding and application readiness, but observations about when and how this happens in the classroom have not been adequately documented. In this study we will explore teaching and learning in a middle-school boat-building curriculum focused on real-world application of math concepts. The boat-building program took place over one week, included seven students, and was taught by three teachers. The teaching phase of this study examined how the three boat-building teachers applied their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) through a participant observation case study. The three teachers had diverse training and teaching backgrounds. At the completion of the course these teachers were interviewed on their prior teaching experiences and training to determine how they acquired their pedagogical content knowledge. The learning part of this study involved a pre- and post-test application task completed by the students. After all students completed the application task, each was interviewed to see what, if any, knowledge or approach these teachers used had an impact on the ability of the students to do the task. Analysis of the pre-post assessments showed that students were not able to make statistically significant gains over the one week of instruction. However, students did note many aspects of instruction that they thought helped them. Additionally, students showed gains in assessing importance of geometry in design, the vocabulary associated with scale, geometry, and woodworking, and creating context for prior instruction. For the teachers, higher scores on the PCK rubric did align with a greater amount of experience teaching. Also, the two more experienced teachers influenced each other and the third teacher regarding student learning and instructional approach.


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