Factors Affecting Science Teaching Efficacy of Preservice Elementary Teachers

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<ul><li><p>177Journal of Science Teacher Education, 14(3): 177-192, 20032003 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Printed in the Netherlands</p><p>Factors Affecting Science Teaching Efficacy of PreserviceElementary Teachers</p><p>Pamela CantrellEducational Specialties, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557-0214, U.S.A.</p><p>Suzanne YoungAlan MooreEducational Leadership, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, U.S.A.</p><p>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.</p><p>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).</p><p>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).</p><p>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</p></li><li><p>178</p><p>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&amp; Dembo, 1984, p. 570).</p><p>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 &amp; 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.</p><p>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:</p><p>1. What are the specific variables related to science teaching efficacy at eachstage of the teacher education coursework?</p><p>2. Do efficacy beliefs increase significantly over time following coursework?</p><p>Teacher Efficacy</p><p>During the past twenty-five years, numerous researchers have studied anddescribed teacher efficacy (Ashton &amp; Webb, 1986; Bandura, 1997; Guskey &amp;Passaro, 1994; Hoy &amp; Woolfolk, 1993; Moore &amp; Esselman, 1992; Saklofske,Michayluk, &amp; Randhawa, 1988; Tschannen-Moran, Hoy, &amp; Hoy, 1998) andinstruments for its measure have been designed and refined (Enochs &amp; Riggs,1990; Gibson &amp; Dembo, 1984; Goddard, Hoy, &amp; Hoy, 2000; Guskey, 1987; Hoy &amp;Woolfolk, 1993; Soodak &amp; Podell, 1993; Woolfolk &amp; Hoy, 1990). Teacher efficacyhas been linked to teacher effectiveness and appears to influence students in theirachievement, attitude and affective growth (Anderson, Greene, &amp; Loewen, 1988;Ashton &amp; Webb, 1986; Moore &amp; Esselman, 1992; Ross, 1992; Tschannen-Moranet al., 1998; Woolfolk, Rosoff, &amp; Hoy, 1990).</p><p>The work of several researchers supports the existence of two relatively</p><p>PAMELA CANTRELL, ET AL.</p></li><li><p>179</p><p>independent factors of teacher efficacy that relate to Banduras two dimensions ofself- efficacy (Ashton &amp; Webb, 1986; Enochs &amp; Riggs, 1990; Gibson &amp; Dembo,1984; Guskey &amp; Passaro, 1994; Woolfolk &amp; 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.</p><p>Sources of Teacher Efficacy</p><p>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.</p><p>The Measurement of Teacher Efficacy</p><p>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 &amp;Riggs, 1990; Gibson &amp; Dembo, 1984; Goddard et al., 2000; Guskey, 1981, 1987;Rose &amp; 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 &amp; Woolfolk, 1993; Soodak &amp; Podell, 1993; Woolfolk &amp;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 &amp; Riggs,1990), and again confirmed the two factors.</p><p>FACTORS AFFECTING SCIENCE TEACHING EFFICACY</p></li><li><p>180</p><p>Researchers using the STEBI have found Personal Science Teaching Efficacy(PSTE) to be positively related to early field experiences for preservice teachers,(Cannon &amp; Scharmann, 1995) teaching performance (Riggs et al., 1994), andpreservice teachers success in and enjoyment of student-centered instructionalstrategies (Watters &amp; 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 &amp;Scharmann, 1995).</p><p>Methods</p><p>This study was conducted at a university in the Rocky Mountain West wherepreparation to teach elementary science involves three successive levels ofcoursework: seminars, advanced methods, and student teaching. The study examinedpossible effects on efficacy beliefs at each level of coursework. Participantscompleted the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument From B and ademographic questionnaire that elicited background information about their currentcoursework and past science experiences. A total of 268 undergraduates in theelementary teacher preparation program participated in our study. Data were collectedat the end of three consecutive semesters in an attempt to include the same studentsacross all three semesters if possible. However, due to course scheduling, only 12 ofthe students appeared in all three data sets and are referred to hereafter as theembedded group. Data for154 seminar students, 84 methods students, and 54 studentteachers were collected across the three semesters with the embedded groupappearing in each data set.</p><p>Students at the seminar level must take nine semester-hours of science contentfrom the Science Department in the College of Arts and Sciences while concurrentlyenrolled in three one-semester hour seminar courses in the College of Education.These seminar courses are introductory methods courses specific to the threebranches of science: physical, life, and earth. All students enrolled in the seminarcourses during the first semester of our study agreed to participate and completedthe questionnaires on the last day of their course. This group is identified as theseminar group in the study.</p><p>Students at the methods level enroll in a six-semester-hour advanced methodscourse in science, mathematics and technology in the College of Education. Athree-week practicum experience is included in this course wherein students areexpected to prepare and teach a lesson based on content determined by theirpracticum lead teacher. While most of the students are able to teach a sciencelesson, some are required by their lead teachers to teach in another subject area. Allstudents enrolled in four sections of the advanced methods course during the secondsemester were surveyed for our study on the last day of class. These students areidentified as the methods group in the study.</p><p>Students at the third level are completing their semester of student teachingexperience. At the end of the third semester, 87 intern students were contacted by</p><p>PAMELA CANTRELL, ET AL.</p></li><li><p>181</p><p>letter and invited to participate in the study. After two mailings, completed formswere returned by 54 of the students for a 62% response rate. This group is identifiedas the student teacher group in the study.</p><p>Instrumentation</p><p>The Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument Form B (STEBI-B) developedby Enochs and Riggs (1990) for use with preservice elementary teachers was usedto assess science teaching efficacy in this study. The STEBI-B is based on theGibson and Dembo (1984) instrument and consists of 23 questions using a fivechoice Likert scale with responses ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree.The STEBI-B measures the two subscales that reflect Banduras two factors. Theauthors refer to the two factors as Personal Science Teaching Efficacy (PSTE) andScience Teaching Outcome Efficacy (STOE). Enochs and Riggs reported aCronbachs coefficient alpha of 0.92 for the PSTE scale, and 0.77 for the STOEscale using a sample of preservice elementary teachers. Factor analysis by Enochsand Riggs confirmed the two factors.</p><p>A factor analysis performed on our data also supported the two dimensions ofteacher efficacy as described in the literature, with PSTE loadings ranging from.322 to .727 and a Cronbachs alpha of .87. Loadings for STOE were somewhatlower, ranging from .165 to .662 and a Cronbachs alpha of .69. Hoy and Wolfolk(1993) recommend eliminating items on the Gibson and Dembo instrument that donot load on the outcome efficacy scale before data analysis. Because the STEBI isbased on the Gibson and Dembo instrument, we eliminated the three items on theSTOE scale for our data with loadings below the .320 cut point suggested byStevens (1996). The seven items remaining on the STOE scale produced aCronbachs alpha of .73.</p><p>A demographic questionnaire designed to tap antecedent sources of efficacywas also used. Ramey-Gassert, Shroyer, and Staver (1996) describe antecedentfactors related to science teaching efficacy as science activities in and out of school,teacher preparation, and science teaching experiences. The formulation of thequestions for this instrument was also guided by the four sources of self-efficacypostulated by Bandura (1986, 1997). Students were asked to report gender, highschool and college GPAs and the number of high school and college science coursestaken. Students also indicated whether or not they had participated in extracurricularhigh school science activities such as science fairs, science clubs, or being mentoredby a scientist. Students enrolled in the methods course and student teachers wereasked to report the amount of time they spent teaching science per week inelementary school classrooms.</p><p>Results</p><p>The seminar group (n = 154), methods group (n = 84), and student teachergroup (n = 54) data sets were analyzed separately to d...</p></li></ul>