Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Science Education

First Advisor

Joanne K. Olson

Second Advisor

Anne T. Estapa


Co-teaching triads composed of grades 3-5 cooperating/student teacher dyads and an engineering graduate student were formed; triads met once per week to collaboratively plan and implement science and engineering lessons. Sharp distinctions in elementary school classroom teaching experience and knowledge of science and engineering content were present in these triads. The purpose of this dissertation was to better understand how participants’ educational and professional backgrounds interacted in the context of the classroom.

Research on co-teaching dyads may inform studies of the performance and relational aspects of co-teaching triads, but may not be fully capable of addressing the potential complexities related to three-person group dynamics and asymmetries in distribution of knowledge and skill. In the first study, literature from the areas of research in co-teaching and small group dynamics was synthesized to create a conceptual framework for understanding the nature of co-teaching triad structure and tasks and internal and external factors that may impact triad performance.

The second study investigated the roles played by members of the science and engineering co-teaching triads using a multiple case study approach. Data for this study was collected in participant interviews and during observations of collaborative planning meetings and co-taught lessons. Results of this study indicate that triad members took on roles related to their identity within their triads. Conflicting understandings of the role of teachers and content knowledge in elementary science and engineering education may have led to role conflict in some triads. Further, opportunities for participant professional growth may have been impacted by the unique composition of the triads.

The final study investigated the team effectiveness of the co-teaching triads. Team effectiveness is a multi-dimensional construct reflecting the degree of performance quality achieved by a team and team member attitudinal and satisfaction-related perspectives. Specifically, this study operationalized team effectiveness as triads’ composite scores on a science lesson evaluation instrument and aggregated triad member satisfaction ratings related to triad lesson planning and implementation activity. Results indicate that triad team effectiveness was impacted by the extent to which triads engaged in surfacing student prior knowledge, use of evidence, and sense making of targeted ideas.

Copyright Owner

Christopher Dwight Spinler



File Format


File Size

271 pages