General science knowledge and attitudes towards science and science teaching of preservice primary teachers: Implications for preservice science units

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<ul><li><p>257 </p><p>Research in Science Education Ig8g, 19, 257 - 267 </p><p>GENERAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS </p><p>SCIENCE AND SCIENCE TEACHING OF PRESERVICE PRIMARY TEACHERS: </p><p>IMPLICATIONS FOR PRESERVICE SCIENCE UNITS </p><p>Keith Skamp </p><p>INTRODUCTION </p><p>The recent Discipline Review of Teacher Education in Science </p><p>(DEET,Ig8g) drew the distinction between discipline studies (the study of </p><p>science as such) and pedagogical studies (the study of teaching and learning </p><p>and their interrelationship). It implied that inclusion of the former in </p><p>preservice teacher education programmes would build primary teachers' </p><p>confidence in science(p.37). This was partly premised on a knowledge of the </p><p>secondary science background of preservice primary teachers. This paper </p><p>addresses the issue of the confidence to teach science of preservice primary </p><p>teachers and poses questions about the relationships between that </p><p>'confidence' and the types of students and the preservice science units they </p><p>complete. </p><p>The study involved measuring the general science knowledge and </p><p>attitudes towards science (ATS) and science teaching (ATTPS) of preservice </p><p>primary teachers and students entering a science degree. Changes in the </p><p>attitude scores were determined at the end of semester I when the preservice </p><p>primary teachers had finished a science pedagogical unit and the science </p><p>students several science discipline studies. The science students were </p><p>therefore an interesting control comparison group used to validate the </p><p>effects of the science education unit on the attitude scores( permitting a </p><p>pretest-posttestcontrol group design). </p><p>Reference to 'confidence' data (MacLeod,1988,1989) suggests that the </p><p>relationship between discipline studies, attitudes towards science and </p><p>science teaching, and confidence to teach science may not be straight- </p><p>forward. Further the influence of mode of entry, sex and secondary science </p><p>background on the attitude and knowledge scores indicates that mature age </p><p>students (especially women), despite lower science entry scores on the </p><p>measures used, appear to develop more positive attitudes towards science </p><p>teaching. </p></li><li><p>258 </p><p>The inclusion of the science control group, the reporting of subscale </p><p>attitude results and the influence of various student variables on the </p><p>knowledge and attitude scores distinguishes this study from earlier work on </p><p>attitudes( Dooley &amp; Lucas, 1981; Ginns &amp; Foster, 1978) and science knowledge </p><p>of preservice primary teachers( Kings,c.1988)o The implications for </p><p>preservice primary science teacher education are especially relevant in the </p><p>context of the recent Discipline Review. </p><p>PROCEDURE </p><p>Commencing students in the the Bachelor of Education (Primary) [BEd] </p><p>and Bachelor of Applied Science [BAppISc] at Northern Rivers College of </p><p>Advanced Education were surveyed during the f i r s t week of lectures in 1988 </p><p>and 1989. The f i r s t cohort's ATS and ATTPS scores were measured using Moore </p><p>&amp; Sutman's (1970) and Moore's (1973) instruments respectively. Both measures </p><p>were reapplied in the last week of lectures in the f i rs t semester. The </p><p>second cohort's (commencing students in the two degrees in the following </p><p>year) general science knowledge was ascertained using the General Science </p><p>Test 2M (consisting of multiple choice year 5 and 12 anchor items) compiled </p><p>by the Second International Science Study (SISS)(Payne &amp; Rosier, 1988). </p><p>Students in both degree programs undertook four units in their f i r s t </p><p>semester: BEd -Educational Studies I, Practicum I, and two Curriculum </p><p>Studies units [including a science pedagogical study (0.5 of a unit )-for </p><p>a description see Skamp (1987)] ; and BAppSc- Biology, Chemistry, Geology and </p><p>Resource Assessment Techniques Io </p><p>The secondary science background of the students in the two degree </p><p>programmes in the two consecutive years indicated that differences were not </p><p>marked in 1988 (Two HSC science subjects completed : science (S) 23.2%; </p><p>education (E) 11.6%; one HSC science subject: S63.9; E66.4.; SC (school </p><p>certificate) science (or less): $9.3; E17.8). In 1989 the science degree </p><p>students had a generally better secondary science background, v i l , Two HSC </p><p>science subjects: S 33.3; E 13.1.; one HSC science subject: S 50.8; E </p><p>67.2; SC science subject (or less): S 5.9; E 15.5. (See Note I) . </p><p>Both degrees take in mature age students and other non-school leavers. </p><p>In 1988, 24 percent of enrolments in both degrees were mature-age; in 1989 </p><p>the percentage of non-school leavers was 17 (E) and 33 (S). There is a </p><p>contrast in the sex balance in the two degrees [E Female: 80.8 (1988); 72.1 </p><p>(1989); S Female: 32.4 (1988); 31.4(1989)]. </p></li><li><p>259 </p><p>RESULTS AND DISCUSSION </p><p>Attitudes ~owards science and science teachinq </p><p>Before discussing the results and interpretation of the ATS and ATTPS </p><p>scores it should be noted that the scales were constructed in the early </p><p>seventies and the attitudes expressed towards science and science teaching </p><p>reflected that period. Apart from where indicated however the position </p><p>statements representing science and science teaching attitudes would st i l l </p><p>be valid today. </p><p>Overall scores. </p><p>Comparison with earlier Australian studies (see p.258) indicates that </p><p>over a ten-year period students entering teacher education programmes have </p><p>shown l i t t le variation in their commencing attitudes towards science and </p><p>science teaching. The results (see Table 1) show that students entering both </p><p>degree programmes have very slightly positive attitudes towards science and </p><p>a neutral attitude towards teaching primary science. On completion of their </p><p>f i rst semester units the ATS scores for both groups did not change </p><p>significantly. However education students' ATTPS scores improved </p><p>significantly (and substantially) , whereas science students' attitudes </p><p>towards teaching primary science did not significantly alter. [ I t is </p><p>interesting to note that ATTPS scores-for education students- may be higher </p><p>at the completion of semester 4 (see results in Skamp,1988b, and Dooley &amp; </p><p>Lucas,1981), but are st i l l low compared to Moore's (1973) reported scores] </p><p>TABLE 1 DESCRIPTIVE STATIST ICS AND t-TESTS FOR </p><p>PRE- AND POST-COURSE SCORES ON ATS AND ATTPS SCALES </p><p>(Unpaired Subjects) </p><p>School (n) Pro-Course Post-Course Difference t mean S.D. mean S.D. (p) </p><p>Scale : ATS (maximum score = 120) </p><p>Education (151) 74.29 8.30 (107) 75.87 10.41 1.58 1.34 (0.18) Applied Sc. (109) 76.62 9.23 (69) 77.77 8.64 1.15 0.92 (0.41) </p><p>Difference 2.32** 1.90 Scale : ATTPS (Maximum score = 90) </p><p>Education (151) 49.19 6.85 (107) 57.84 11.41 8.65** 7.55 (0.001) Applied Sc, (109) 47.99 5.19 (69) 48.71 6.25 0.72 0.86 (0.40) </p><p>Difference -1.20 -9.13"* </p><p>** Significant at &lt; 0.05 level (Fisher PLSD and Scheffe F - test). </p></li><li><p>260 </p><p>A multiple regression analysis using the pretest results for the ATTPS </p><p>scale as the init ial predictor variable and the degree programme as the </p><p>second predictor variable (i.e. an analysis of covariance in order to isolate </p><p>the effect of the treatment) indicated that these two variables and their </p><p>interaction accounted for 31 percent of the variance in the post ATTPS </p><p>results (df = 142; F = 32.9). Of this variance, 25 percent was attributable </p><p>to the interaction of the pretest with the treatment (dr = 142; F = 48.2). </p><p>This supports the interpretation that the curriculum studies unit is a </p><p>significant factor associated with the change in the education students' </p><p>attitudes towards primary science teaching. </p><p>An interesting comparison can be made between ATTPS scores and </p><p>MacLeod's (1988, 1989) data which determined the (self-rated) confidence to </p><p>teach science of students in the B.Ed. (primary.) programme (see Table 2.) </p><p>As students progress through their programme (and their Semester I and 4 </p><p>science curriculum units) the percentage of students feeling total ly or </p><p>reasonably confident increases. This is paralleled by an increase in the </p><p>percentage of students obtaining better than mildly positive ATTPS scores, </p><p>and would support the interpretation that a more positive attitude towards </p><p>teaching primary science is associated with a greater self-confidence. The </p><p>latter has been related to more effective practice (Bonnstetter &amp; Yager, </p><p>1985). </p><p>" TABLE 2 COMPARISON OF ATTPS SCORES WITH </p><p>CONFIDENCE TO TEACH SC IENCE </p><p>ATTPS Scores t Conf idence to Teach Science 2 </p><p>Somewhat/ Totally/ ~;30 &gt;60 Totally Reasonably </p><p>Uncertain Certain (percentage responses) (percentage responses) </p><p>1988 Cohort on entry 0.7 8.4 41.2 20.6 end Semester 1 2.9 47.1 - - beginning Semester 3 - - 25.7 38.7 </p><p>1986 Cohort Semester 4 0.0 72.0 - - Beginning Semester 5 - - 10.7 63.7 </p><p>1 AI-I'PS scores of 30 or less are mildly to strongly negative while scores of 60 or more are mildly to strongly positive (possible range 0-90). </p><p>2 These figures are from MacLeod's (1988, 1989) data which asked students to express their "degree of confidence in applying effective methods of teaching science." </p></li><li><p>261 </p><p>Analyses for subgroup differences (on the ATTPS scale) within the </p><p>education cohort suggest that although students with HSC science enter </p><p>college with slightly more positive ATTPS scores than those with only SC </p><p>science, this difference is no longer present at the end of the semester. </p><p>No other differences (due to sex or mode of entry) are present on entry, but </p><p>by the end of the semester female students have significantly higher ATTPS </p><p>scores than males and (at the 0.06 level [ t - test]) mature age students (most </p><p>of whom are female) score more positively than school leavers. A stepwise </p><p>regression analysis with the post-ATTPS scores as the dependent variable and </p><p>the independent (predictor) variables being the pre-ATTPS scores, sex, mode </p><p>of entry and their interaction effects enters the interaction effect of the </p><p>sex, entry mode and pre-ATTPS scores f i r s t (16 percent of the variance; df </p><p>= 85, F = 16.63, p &lt; 0.05) and the sex-mode of entry interaction second </p><p>(accounting for a further 9 percent of the variance, df = 85, F = 14.64, p </p><p>&lt; 0.05). Comparison of the scores of the subgroups suggests that mature age </p><p>females are scoring higher than other groups on this scale as a result of the </p><p>science curriculum unit (see Figure I). </p><p>Subscale results </p><p>The science attitude scale consists of four subscales (each associated </p><p>with a positive and negative position statement ). With minor exceptions </p><p>(see note I) the scores on the subscales do not significantly di f fer for </p><p>students in either degree on entry or at the conclusion of the semester . </p><p>Both groups of students held views which were consistent with a mildly </p><p>positive attitude towards science on the position statements. It is worth </p><p>noting that at the end of the semester education students significantly </p><p>disagreed with the statement 'The laws and/or theories of science represent </p><p>unchangeable truths discovered through science' compared to their entry </p><p>views. </p><p>Analysis of the subscales of the ATTPS instrument shows that education </p><p>students entered college slightly more favourably oriented towards </p><p>emphasising science processes than science students ( but believing more </p><p>strongly that certain science facts should be taught to primary age </p><p>children). Education students also fe l t more strongly that teachers should </p><p>be faci l i tators. In other ways both groups were similar on entry: they were </p></li><li><p>262 </p><p>FIGURE 1 </p><p>SUBGROUP SCORES ON THE ATTPS SCALE (Pre and Post measures) </p><p>/ 65.8 60 </p><p>/ j o 57.7 A'rIPS ~ 57.0 SCORES 55.2 </p><p>50 49.3 49.2 </p><p>47.7 47.3 </p><p>PRE POST </p><p>KEY O School leaver females (N=55) 9 Mature aged females (N=16) Z~ School leaver males (N=9) A Mature aged males (N=6) </p></li><li><p>263 </p><p>ambivalent about their understanding of science and desire to teach it ( </p><p>although they disagreed with the idea of not wanting to teach science); </p><p>both groups also tended to agree with teachers telling students what they </p><p>have to learn. On completion of the f i r s t semester education students had </p><p>shown statistically significant improvements on all sub-scales apart from </p><p>the position statement "I do not like the thought of teaching science," with </p><p>which they s t i l l mildly disagreed. Science students showed no significant </p><p>changes(See Note 1). The subscale analysis suggested that some perceptions </p><p>of the role of the subject and the teacher can change relatively quickly but </p><p>underlying feelings about abil ity to teach science seem dif f icult to change. </p><p>[One of the more "negative "atittudes (students' perceptions that science </p><p>facts are important for children to know) may be partly explained by changes </p><p>in emphasis in science education since the early seventies(see Note 2)] </p><p>General science knowledge </p><p>On entry education students scores were significantly lower (F =34.38; </p><p>p = 0.0001) than science students. Their results are compared with NSW 14 </p><p>year olds and year 12 students (Payne &amp; Rosier, 1988) in Table 3. Kings (c. </p><p>1988) found that f i rs t year primary teacher education students scored 52.3 </p><p>percent (S.D. 4.33) on a 30-item SISS Year 12 test. </p><p>TABLE 3 MEAN PERCENTAGE SCORES BY PROGRAMME AND FOR NSW 14-YEAR-OLD STUDENTS AND YEAR 12 SCIENCE STUDENTS </p><p>Group Year 5 Year 12 Test Total Anchor Test Anchor Test (30 Items) (15 Items) (15 Items) </p><p>Science (n = 50) 81.1% Education (n = 123) 69,1% NSW 14-year-old students (N =787) 58.9 % NSW Year 12 science students (n=896) </p><p>88..3 % 73.9 % 81.3 % 56.9 % 72.3 % 45.5 % </p><p>65.9 % </p></li><li><p>264 </p><p>BEd students performed significantly better i f they had completed a </p><p>physical science (mean,23.56;SD,4.13;n=16) compared to a biological science </p><p>(21.05; 3.19;n=61) at HSC level. Both these groups outperformed students </p><p>who had HSC general science (19.05;3.23;n=21) or school certificate science </p><p>[or less] (19.25;4.Sg;n=24). The latter two categories did not significantly </p><p>differ. </p><p>Analysis of variance results, for education students only, found </p><p>significant main and interaction effects when sex and secondary science </p><p>background were used as the independent variables. Males performed better </p><p>than females irrespective of secondary science background. (This result was </p><p>also irrespective of the degree programme.) Item analyses indicate that </p><p>physical science items and those requiring comprehension and application of </p><p>science concepts cause the most d i f f icul ty for education students </p><p>(see Note I). </p><p>DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS </p><p>Teachers will teach better i f they have a sound knowledge of their </p><p>subject-a truism often overlooked (Shulman,1986). Dobey &amp; Schafer (1984) </p><p>found that when preservice primary teachers had an "intermediate" science </p><p>knowledge about a topic they taught more effective inquiry oriented science. </p><p>The results reported here highlight that commencing preservice primary </p><p>teachers do not have a strong general science background (particularly in the </p><p>physical sciences). As very few preservice programmes have compulsory </p><p>science discipline studies, and science pedagogical studies comprise only </p><p>about 4.5% of such programmes (Skamp,1988a; Owen et al., 1985), then serious </p><p>co...</p></li></ul>