Adaptation is the changes a teacher makes before, during or after classroom enactment to any sort of instructional materials or to his or her typical practice. Teacher need to adapt even high quality instructional materials to better support their own students’ learning. For example, an experienced teacher might adapt a unit to allow students greater opportunity to design their own investigations; a beginning teacher on the other hand, might adapt the same unit to provide more structure. Some teachers make productive changes to curriculum materials toward these end, whereas others who do not deeply understand the rationales behind reforms promoted in some materials may make unproductive changes. Even experienced teachers may need significant support in learning to make decisions about using instructional materials effectively, especially when the materials represent an innovative or reform oriented approach to science teaching that is unfamiliar to teachers is often the case when teachers incorporate inquiry oriented science and technology into their teaching.
A cognitive prerequisite for adaptation is that teachers be efficient and effective in their routine practices so that they will be able to perform multiple tasks without exhausting their attention and cognitive resources. Only then can they advance beyond existing routines to adapt their practices and integrate new pedagogical knowledge. Effective teachers constantly make adaptations to curriculum materials, but some teachers do not view adaptation as a legitimate or high priority part of their job. A professional development approach called targeted professional development has been developed to support teachers as they learn to incorporate technology innovations into their classes, engage in inquiry instruction and cultivate best practices. The key idea is that teachers must be empowered to design their own professional development. TDP is a variant of the mentioned professional development approach that has been used successfully in other research. The mentioned approach is well suited for teachers using technology in support of inquiry instruction in science classrooms
Teachers need ongoing support to engage in productive adaptations. Beginning teachers have resources on which they can build when it comes to critiquing and adapting existing curriculum materials, including their own understanding of inquiry oriented science teaching. However, adapting along some dimensions is more challenging for teachers even when they are provided with support. Similarly teachers using new technologies in their instruction must address logistical challenges and make small adaptations that are closely aligned with their current teaching practices during initial enactments. Initial support must focus on increasing their comfort with using technology. Ongoing support may be necessary to help teachers like these develop a better understanding of best practices for engaging inquiry instruction. Such support could be built into educative curriculum materials, technological tools, teacher education and professional development programmes intended to promote teacher learning.