To Customize or Not to Customize? Exploring Science Teacher Customization in an Online Lesson Portal
New technologies are increasingly giving science teachers the ability to access and customize science lessons. However, there is substantial debate in the literature about whether and under what conditions teacher customization benefit student learning. In this study, we examined teacher customization of inquiry-based science lessons from an online lesson portal. We found that students who completed teacher-customized lessons had greater improvements in science content understanding than students who completed non-customized lessons. To expand upon this finding, we examined four case studies of teachers who made significant numbers of modifications to lessons: three “high performers” (with increases in student achievement ranging from 64th to 97th percentile) and one “low performer” (7th percentile). We found that high performing teachers modified lessons to include opportunities for students to revisit their predictions, engage in different learning modalities, and make deeper connections between scientific concepts. Changes made by the “low performing” teacher reduced the quality of the lesson, for example, asking students to predict results without sufficient context or information. These findings suggest that teacher customization can improve the quality of inquiry-based science lessons, but that some teachers may require additional training and support to achieve the benefits of customization.