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Self-efficacy, attitude and science knowledge.

Abstract

This study examined Turkish preservice elementary teachers' science knowledge level, attitude toward science teaching and their efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching. In addition, the contribution of science knowledge level and attitudes toward science teaching on preservice elementary teachers' efficacy beliefs was investigated. Findings indicated that participants had moderate sense of self-efficacy beliefs, attitudes and low level of science knowledge. Results also showed that science knowledge level and attitude towards science teaching each made a statistically significant contribution to the variation in participants' efficacy beliefs.

Introduction

Improving the preparation of preservice elementary teachers to science teaching has been of great concern over the past two decades. Studies revealed that teachers' understanding of science concepts, attitudes toward and beliefs regarding science teaching are strong predictors of effective science teaching in the classroom. Regarding the concepts, facts and skills concerning science, studies reported that elementary teachers possessed generally low level of knowledge (Stevens & Wenner, 1996; Wenner, 1993). This low level of background science knowledge, significantly contributed to elementary teachers' hesitancy, and possible inability to provide effective science instruction in their classrooms. Wenner (1993) reported the existence of a low level of science knowledge among preservice elementary teachers and concluded that while high school science course work appears adequate, college preparation in science content is inadequate. Elementary teachers teach all subjects and may not be equally effective in teaching all of them. It is primarily science, though, that most troubles the elementary teachers (Enochs & Riggs, 1990). Often reported is that elementary teachers avoid teaching science in the elementary school curriculum and they prefer teaching other subjects to science (Stefanich & Kelsey, 1989). Actually, Dobey and Schafer (1984) found that many elementary teachers were reluctant to teach science because they felt that they lacked knowledge of science content and processes.

Another factor beyond content knowledge that affects elementary instruction is the beliefs held by teachers toward science teaching (Lin, Gorrell, & Taylor, 2002; Milson & Mehling, 2002; Posnanski, 2002; Tosun, 2000; Zacharias, 2003). A specific teacher belief such as one's self-efficacy in teaching science is a possible contributor to behavior patterns of elementary teachers with regard to science especially in motivating them to teach science or causing avoidance of science teaching by the teachers (Cantrell, Young & Moore, 2003; Mulholland, Dorman, & Odgers, 2004; Tournaki, & Podell, 2005; Woolfolk Hoy & Spero, 2005). Teachers' sense of efficacy is a construct derived from Bandura's (1986) theory of self-efficacy in which the generalized behavior of an individual is based on two factors, (a) a belief about action and outcome and (b) a personal belief about his/her own ability to cope with a task. Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk Hoy (2001) defined teacher efficacy as "teacher's judgment of his or her capabilities to bring about desired outcomes of student engagement and learning, even among those students who may be difficult or unmotivated" (p.783). Research on efficacy of teachers suggests that behaviors such as persistence at a task, risk taking, and use of innovations be related to degrees of efficacy (Ashton, 1984). For example, highly efficacious teachers were more likely to use open-ended, inquiry, student-directed teaching strategies, while teachers with a low sense of efficacy were more likely to use teacher-directed teaching strategies such as lecture and reading from the textbook. It has been demonstrated that students generally learn more from teachers with high self-efficacy that from those whose self-efficacy is low (Ashton, 1984). In addition, teacher efficacy beliefs are potentially powerful variables, which ultimately influence both the amount of instructional time teachers spend on science and the resulting achievement students attain in science at the elementary level (Enochs, Scharmann, & Riggs, 1995). If Bandura's theory of self-efficacy is applied to the science teaching, we might predict that teachers who believe that science learning can be influenced by effective science teaching (outcome expectancy) and who believe in their own ability to effectively teach science (self-efficacy) will more regularly and effectively teach science (Riggs, 1991).

Studies have also addressed the construct of teacher's attitudes toward science and how the construct affected teaching (Stevens & Wenner, 1996; Wenner, 1993). Koballa and Crawley (1985) stated that there was an interrelationship among beliefs, attitude and behavior. They explained this relationship by the scenario whereby elementary school teachers judged their ability to teach science to be low (belief), resulting a dislike for science teaching (attitude) that ultimately translated into teachers who avoided teaching science (behavior). Therefore, it is clear that teachers' attitudes towards science and science teaching are important factors affecting the quality of science taught to students. In line with these findings, present study investigates preservice elementary teachers' science knowledge level, attitude toward science teaching and their efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching. The research questions are as follows:

1. What are preservice elementary teachers' efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching?

2. What are preservice elementary teachers' attitudes toward science teaching?

3. What are preservice elementary teachers' science knowledge levels?

4. Is there a significant contribution of science knowledge level and attitude toward science teaching to preservice elementary teachers' self-efficacy beliefs?

5. Are there any significant relationships among attitudes toward science teaching, efficacy beliefs, science knowledge level, university cumulative grade point average (CGPA) and the number of science courses completed at the university?

Method

The sample of the study consisted of 750 (n=531 females; n=216 males; and n=3 gender not provided) fourth-year preservice elementary teachers enrolled at elementary teacher education programs of nine of the eleven selected universities in Turkey. In Turkey, elementary teachers are educated through four year undergraduate programs and these programs need to follow very similar coursework that is suggested by the Higher Education Council. Preservice elementary teachers are required to take a number of courses in the different branches of science, and several courses related to teaching profession. All of the teacher education programs are intended to educate prospective teachers for the schools of the Ministry of National Education, which has centralized curricula throughout the country. Data were obtained through the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument, the Science Teaching Attitude Scale, and the Science Achievement Test. Preservice elementary teachers' science teaching self-efficacy beliefs were measured by using the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI-B) developed by Enochs and Riggs (1990). The STEBI-B is comprised of two subscales; personal science teaching efficacy beliefs (PSTE) and science teaching outcome expectancy (STOE). This instrument was translated and adapted into Turkish by Tekkaya, Cakiroglu, and Ozkan (2004). Reliability analysis of the Turkish version of PSTE and STOE scales produced an alpha coefficient of 0.86 and 0.79 respectively. This instrument is a 5-choice, Likert type scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. High scores on the first scale (PSTE), relative to other respondents, indicate a strong personal belief in one's own efficacy as a science teacher, and on the second scale (STOE) high expectations with respect to the outcomes of science teaching. The Science Teaching Attitude Scale was developed by Thompson and Shringley (1986). It is a 22-item, five-point Likert scale, measuring preservice teachers' attitudes towards the science teaching. The reliability of the Turkish version of the scale was found as 0.86. A 24 item multiple-choice Science Achievement Test was designed to measure science knowledge level of preservice elementary teachers. The reliability was found to be 0.88 and the validation of the test was examined by a group of experts in science, science education, and measurement and evaluation.

Results

Preservice elementary teachers' responses to STEBI-B indicate generally moderate levels of PSTE (M=45.22; SD=13.42) and STOE (M=36.34; SD=10.30). Concerning PSTE, 63.8% stated that they would generally teach science effectively and 61.1% of them claimed that they would continually find better ways to teach science. Only 46.2% indicated that they had the necessary skills to teach science effectively. However, 34% and 41% thought that they knew science concepts and the necessary steps to teach science, respectively. Half of the participants (56.4%) believed that with effort they would teach science science as well as most subjects. Regarding outcome expectancy, preservice elementary teachers generally agree that student's achievement in science is the responsibility of the teacher. For example, the majority (77%) of participants believed good teaching could overcome the inadequacy of a student's science background and they felt that students' achievement in science is directly related to their teacher's effectiveness. More than half of the participants (61.6%) believed that the teacher was generally responsible for the low science achievement of some students. Slightly less than half of the participants (48.2%) thought that increased effort in science teaching produced change in some students' science achievement. Overall scores revealed (M=68.92; SD=20.67) that preservice elementary teachers generally have positive attitudes toward science teaching. For example, while 86.5% of the participants claimed that teaching of science process was important in the science classroom, 78.6% thought that they enjoyed the lab/hands on time when they teach science. Similarly, they believed that science is as important as reading-writing and mathematics (77.6%). On the contrary, they had some concern with items related to teaching science. For example, only 18.3% of the participants stated that they felt comfortable teaching science and 25% indicated that they would be able to teach science adequately. In this study, the participants showed low level of science achievement. Of a possible 24 correct responses on the test, the relatively low mean score of 7.31 was attained by the preservice teachers. This means that, the participants responded correctly to less than 50% of the questions.

The contributions of science achievement and attitude towards science teaching to preservice elementary teachers' PSTE and STOE were determined by using two separate Multiple Regression Correlation Analyses. Results showed that the model significantly accounted for 40% of the variation in preservice elementary teachers' PSTE (F=202.342; p< .05), and 4% of the variation in preservice teachers' STOE (F=12.383; p< .05). Also, science knowledge level and attitude towards science teaching each made a statistically significant contribution to the variation in participants' PSTE and STOE. However, it is necessary to note that variance explained by science knowledge level and attitude towards science teaching in participants' STOE was low. In order to see the relationship that might exist among participants' science knowledge level, their attitude toward science teaching, their self-efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching, and their CGPA, and the number of the science courses completed, Pearson correlation analysis was computed. Analysis failed to show any significant relationship between the number of science courses completed at the university and their science knowledge level (p>.05). However, a statistically significant negative and weak correlation was found between CGPA and science knowledge level (r= -.098; p<.05). It was also indicated that participants' attitude toward science teaching correlated with neither the number of science courses completed nor CGPA (p>.05). Similarly, no correlations between their CGPA and dimensions of the efficacy belief instrument were found (p[??] .05).

Discussion

Because of strong relationship between science teaching efficacy beliefs and science teaching behaviors, one goal of a teacher education program is to increase preservice teachers' self-efficacy. In this study, preservice elementary teachers hold positive efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching on PSTE and STOE. It means that they believe in their ability to teach science and their power to overcome the negative effects of non-school factors result in positive student learning outcomes. They seem to be optimistic and they believe that they would be effective in science teaching in the future. Similarly, they generally believed that effective teaching could influence students' learning. They are in agreement that effective science teaching can overcome the inadequacy of a students' science background. Most of the participants, however, expressed concern regarding their background knowledge in science. For example, relatively low percentage of preservice teachers stated that they understood science concepts well enough to teach science effectively, felt comfortable teaching science, and believed in their ability to teach science adequately. Results of the science achievement test also confirm their poor level of understandings. In fact, data in this study provide evidence that science knowledge level and attitude toward science teaching each make a significant contribution to self-efficacy beliefs. Studies reported a low level of science knowledge among preservice elementary teachers (e.g. Wenner, 1995) suggested that lack of background in science knowledge significantly contributes to hesitancy, reluctance and possible inability to deliver effective science instruction in classroom settings.

Findings also supported the idea that having preservice teachers take more science courses would not significantly improve their science knowledge level (Stepan & McCormack, 1985). It is suggested that the completing traditional science courses do not always result in greater understanding of science concepts. In addition, there are number of studies that consider how the number of university science courses impact on preservice elementary teachers' attitude toward science teaching. For example, some studies found a significant relationship between the number of college courses taken in science and preservice teachers' attitudes toward teaching science (e.g. Manning, Esler, and Baird, 1982). This study, however, found no significant correlation between the number of college science courses completed and attitude toward teaching science. A similar result was reported by Wenner (1993). Therefore, institutions which prepare teachers should not simply add additional science courses to education programs believing these additional courses would increase the knowledge of science concepts and improve attitudes to teaching science. These courses should be taught using methods that relate concepts, avoid lecturing and memorizing, build upon what students already know, and pay attention to development of science concepts (McDevitt, Heikkinen, Alcorn, Ambrosio, & Gardner, 1993).

Conclusion

Present study explored the preservice elementary teachers' self-efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching, their science knowledge level and attitudes toward science teaching. Specifically, the study investigated the contribution of science knowledge level, and attitude toward science teaching to preservice elementary teachers' self-efficacy beliefs. Participants of this study have moderately positive self-efficacy beliefs, science teaching attitude and low level of science knowledge. Findings also revealed that science knowledge level and attitude towards science teaching made a statistically significant contribution to the variation in preservice elementary teachers' personal science teaching efficacy beliefs and outcome expectancy.

In order to provide quality in teacher education, preservice teachers should be adequately prepared to teach science concepts with confidence. In an effort to inform teacher education practices, this study provides insights to investigate preservice elementary teachers' teaching efficacy beliefs, science teaching attitudes and their science knowledge. Such research findings can help researchers, teacher educators and education programs in assisting preservice teachers to build such beliefs, in revision their program or practicum experiences result in enhancing preservice teachers' sense of efficacy, positive attitude and science knowledge for successful teaching. In agreement with other researchers (e.g. Mulholland et al. 2004) we recommend to monitor the prospective teachers' science teaching efficacy beliefs as they progress through the 4year preservice teacher education program. Early detection of preservice teachers' efficacy beliefs, their attitude towards teaching and science knowledge level are crucial to ensuring that new teachers will succeed in their practice.

References

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Hilal Sarikaya, Middle East Technical University, Ankara Turkey

Jale Cakiroglu, Middle East Technical University, Ankara Turkey

Ceren Tekkaya, Middle East Technical University, Ankara Turkey

Sarikaya is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Secondary Science and Mathematics Education. Cakiroglu, Ph. D., is Assistant professor of science education in the Department of Elementary Education. Tekkaya, Ph. D., is Associate professor of science education in the Department of Elementary Education.
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Author:Tekkaya, Ceren
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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