Connecting Epistemic Beliefs about Physics Knowledge and Curriculum Concerns in Saskatchewan: A Mixed Analysis Study

  • Author / Creator
    Watson, Ellen Rose
  • According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, curriculum documents indicate what is to be learned by students by the end of a school year. As Canadian provincial governments mandate new curriculum documents, it is assumed that teachers will teach these courses as indicated. Despite teachers’ familiarity with change, they commonly raise concerns regarding new curriculum documents. Yet, what influences these concerns? Conceiving of epistemic beliefs about physics knowledge as a filter with which teachers read and interpret curriculum documents, this study investigated whether teachers’ concerns regarding a new curriculum document could be connected to epistemic beliefs. This study contributes to the thin literature investigating teachers’ epistemic beliefs about physics knowledge and provides a contextual study about teachers’ concerns in Saskatchewan, Canada.

    In this study, I intended to use data from both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews. Unfortunately, the literature informed survey proved not to be valid for measuring teachers’ epistemic beliefs about physics knowledge. Similar issues were found with the survey used to try to measure teachers’ concerns. Ultimately, data for this study came from interviewing 16 physics teachers across the Western Canadian province of Saskatchewan regarding their, (a) epistemic beliefs about physics knowledge, and (b) concerns about a recently-released grade 12 physics curriculum document. Interviews were transcribed and then coded using thematic analysis. Results from coding were analyzed for potential connections between teachers’ epistemic beliefs about physics knowledge and their concerns. Visual representations including Venn diagrams and matrices were used.

    Findings from this study suggest that teachers’ epistemic beliefs about the source and content of physics knowledge could be connected to their concerns about the grade 12 Physics curriculum document in Saskatchewan released in 2017. Findings also point to the influence of the unique accreditation system that Saskatchewan uses to determine whether a student must write a provincial exam in physics. This study presents a case for: (a) further investigation into teachers’ epistemic compatibility with mandated teaching resources, particularly since their epistemic beliefs about physics knowledge did not necessarily reflect those epistemic beliefs expressed by physicists and scholars of the epistemology of science; (b) the development of a community focused on connecting Saskatchewan physics teachers since these teachers could feel isolated in their roles; and (c) curriculum documents be made readable and interpretable for teachers with varying epistemic beliefs so that they are able to teach the course as intended, particularly when preparing students for a provincial examination.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.