This dissertation is an interpretivist study that focused on the professional development of three African American science teachers from a small rural school district, Carver School District (a pseudonym), in the southeastern United States. Stories teachers shared of their experiences in teaching and learning science and in their professional development were analyzed using a feminist poststructural analysis of power, knowledge/meaning, language, and difference.
For science teaching, power was viewed as a form of ownership or possession and also as effect and processes that impact teaching, learning, and professional development. Teachers through instructional practices exerted a certain amount of power in their classrooms. Teaching practices heavily influenced student learning in science classrooms. For teacher professional development, power was viewed as effecting relationships between administration, peers, and students as a shifting force within different social contexts. Science teachers were perceived as objects of the system and as active social agents who in particular relations of power acted in their best interests as they developed as science teachers. Teachers negotiated for themselves certain power relations to do as they wished for teaching science and for participating in professional development activities. Power was an inherent and critically important aspect in understanding what science teachers do in their classrooms, in teaching and learning science, and in developing as science teachers.
Knowledge was closely tied to relations of power in that teachers acquired knowledge about themselves, their teaching of science, and their students from their past experiences and professional development activities. Through language, interactions between teachers and students enabled or disabled access to the culture of power via instructional practices. Language was implicated in teacher professional development as a powerful force for advancing or hindering teachers professionally. The three teachers had different and similar experiences based upon race, gender, class, and age. Taking differences and similarities into consideration, recommendations were offered to balance relations of power in science teaching, learning, and teacher professional development through multicultural education, culturally relevant pedagogy, and feminist pedagogy. Feminist poststructuralism offers an alternative and critical perspective for science education research.