factors affecting science teaching efficacy of preservice elementary teachers

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  • 177Journal of Science Teacher Education, 14(3): 177-192, 20032003 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Printed in the Netherlands

    Factors Affecting Science Teaching Efficacy of PreserviceElementary Teachers

    Pamela CantrellEducational Specialties, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557-0214, U.S.A.

    Suzanne YoungAlan MooreEducational Leadership, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, U.S.A.

    Preservice elementary teachers entering the specialized coursework designedto prepare them for science teaching responsibilities have a broad range of efficacybeliefs about their success as future science teachers. As they progress throughscience methods and practicum courses, and on to complete their student teaching,their efficacy beliefs may change. Knowing the variables that affect the developmentof positive efficacy beliefs of preservice teachers and how they change over timemay be useful in planning for coursework and practicum experiences that enhanceteaching efficacy throughout the teacher preparatory years.

    Teacher efficacy has emerged as an important construct in teacher educationover the past 25 years. Teacher efficacy is grounded in Banduras social cognitivetheory (1977; 1986; 1997), which roots human agency in a sense of self-efficacy.According to Bandura, self-efficacy beliefs motivate people toward specific actionsin all aspects of their lives, and therefore have predictive value. Bandura identifiedtwo dimensions of self-efficacy: personal self-efficacy and outcome expectancy.Personal self-efficacy is the belief in ones capabilities to organize and executethe courses of action required to produce given attainments, whereas outcomeexpectancy is a judgment of the likely consequence such performances will produce(Bandura, 1997, p. 3).

    Personal self-efficacy is a future-oriented belief about the level of competencea person expects to display in a given situation. When applied to teaching, thisself-efficacy factor is generally known as Personal Teaching Efficacy (PTE). Teacherswith a high level of PTE have confidence that they have adequate training orexperience to develop strategies for overcoming obstacles to student learning.Such teachers will expend great effort to reach goals, will persist longer in the faceof adversity, and rebound from temporary setbacks to a greater degree than teacherswith low PTE (Bandura, 1997).

    Banduras second factor, outcome expectancy, is the notion that an intentionto undertake some action is based on the expected success of that action. Whenapplied to teaching, this factor is most often called General Teaching Efficacy(GTE), and it extends beyond an individual teachers view of his or her owncapabilities to a view of teachers in general. Teachers with low GTE may believethat a teacher really cannot do much about a students motivation and performancebecause of the influence of home environment. When both PTE and GTE are applied

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    to teaching, we might predict that teachers who believe student learning can beinfluenced by effective teaching (GTE) and who also have confidence in their ownteaching abilities (PTE) should persist longer, provide a greater academic focus inthe classroom, and exhibit different types of feedback than teachers who havelower expectations concerning their ability to influence student learning (Gibson& Dembo, 1984, p. 570).

    Bandura (1981; 1997) defined self-efficacy as a situation-specific constructand states that science teaching efficacy is of particular concern, given theincreasing importance of scientific literacy and competency in the technologicaltransformations occurring in society (1997, p. 242). When applied to elementaryscience teaching, this theory may help explain elementary teachers thought patterns,affective reactions, and behaviors regarding science teaching (Enochs & Riggs,1990). Elementary teachers often teach many subjects but may not be equallyeffective in teaching all of them. Thus, a specific measure of science teachingefficacy beliefs may predict future science teaching success of preservice teachersand the degree to which they will positively influence student achievement inscience in their classrooms.

    Research on teacher efficacy continues to examine and clarify the correlatesand factors related to the development of teaching efficacy in preservice teachers,but few studies have focused on the interplay of these factors over time. The purposeof this study was to examine the efficacy beliefs of a sample of elementary preserviceteachers at three stages of their program starting with the introductory methodsseminar courses, followed by the advanced methods course, and finally, at the endof their student teaching, and then to explore the relationships between the levelsof efficacy beliefs and various factors such as gender, prior science experiences,and science teaching time. Specifically, we sought answers to the followingquestions:

    1. What are the specific variables related to science teaching efficacy at eachstage of the teacher education coursework?

    2. Do efficacy beliefs increase significantly over time following coursework?

    Teacher Efficacy

    During the past twenty-five years, numerous researchers have studied anddescribed teacher efficacy (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Bandura, 1997; Guskey &Passaro, 1994; Hoy & Woolfolk, 1993; Moore & Esselman, 1992; Saklofske,Michayluk, & Randhawa, 1988; Tschannen-Moran, Hoy, & Hoy, 1998) andinstruments for its measure have been designed and refined (Enochs & Riggs,1990; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Guskey, 1987; Hoy &Woolfolk, 1993; Soodak & Podell, 1993; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). Teacher efficacyhas been linked to teacher effectiveness and appears to influence students in theirachievement, attitude and affective growth (Anderson, Greene, & Loewen, 1988;Ashton & Webb, 1986; Moore & Esselman, 1992; Ross, 1992; Tschannen-Moranet al., 1998; Woolfolk, Rosoff, & Hoy, 1990).

    The work of several researchers supports the existence of two relatively

    PAMELA CANTRELL, ET AL.

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    independent factors of teacher efficacy that relate to Banduras two dimensions ofself- efficacy (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Enochs & Riggs, 1990; Gibson & Dembo,1984; Guskey & Passaro, 1994; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). According to Ashton andWebb (1986), the two factors of personal teaching efficacy and outcome expectancycan operate independently. Some teachers believe, for example, that teaching canhave a powerful effect on student learning but that they lack the personal ability toimpact their own students. Conversely, some teachers may believe that teachers ingeneral have little influence on students but consider themselves an exception tothis rule.

    Sources of Teacher Efficacy

    Bandura (1986; 1997) postulated four sources of self-efficacy that maycontribute to teacher efficacy: mastery experiences, physiological and emotionalarousal, vicarious experience, and social persuasion. Mastery experiences are themost powerful source of efficacy information according to Tschannen-Moran et al.(1998). The perception that a performance has been successful can raise efficacybeliefs and provide the source for the belief that future performances in a similarvein will also be successful. The level of physiological and emotional arousal thata teacher experiences with a successful performance can also enhance efficacybeliefs. Social persuasion can provide information about the nature of teaching,give encouragement and strategies for overcoming obstacles, and provide specificfeedback on a teachers performance. Bandura (1997) suggests that the socialframing of verbal persuasion is a critical factor that can influence efficacy. Evaluationthat highlights personal capabilities may raise efficacy beliefs, whereas evaluationthat focuses on shortcomings brings deficiencies into the spotlight and efficacybeliefs may be deflated.

    The Measurement of Teacher Efficacy

    Efforts to measure teacher efficacy have become more systematic over the pasttwo decades, and several reliable efficacy scales have been developed based onspecific theoretical models, and in some cases, in specific disciplines (Enochs &Riggs, 1990; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Goddard et al., 2000; Guskey, 1981, 1987;Rose & Medway, 1981). Gibson and Dembo (1984) developed a scale to measurethe two factors of teacher efficacy. Their Teacher Efficacy Scale asked respondentsto rate 30 items on a six-point Likert scale ranging from Strongly Agree to StronglyDisagree. Factor analysis yielded two factors, which the authors identified aspersonal teaching efficacy and general teaching efficacy. The presence of these twofactors using variations of the Gibson and Dembo instrument has been confirmedby other researchers (Hoy & Woolfolk, 1993; Soodak & Podell, 1993; Woolfolk &Hoy, 1990). Additionally, Enochs and Riggs (1990) modified the Gibson Demboinstrument, creating the Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument (STEBI)Form A for inservice teachers and Form B for preservice teachers (Enochs & Riggs,1990), and again confirmed the two factors.

    FACTORS AFFECTING SCIENCE TEACHING EFFICACY

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    Researchers using the STEBI have found Personal Science Teaching Efficacy(PSTE) to be positively related to early field experiences for preservice teachers,(Cannon & Scharmann, 1995) teaching performance (Riggs et al., 1994), andpreservice teachers success in and enjoyment of student-centered instructionalstrategies (Watters & Ginns, 2000). Riggs and Jesunathadas (1993) found thatteachers who exhibit high PSTE are more likely to spend the time needed tothoroughly develop science concepts in their classrooms. Few researchers havefound correlates to Science Teaching Outcome Efficacy (STOE) (Cannon &Scharmann, 1995).

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