Self-efficacy and science anxiety among preservice primary teachers: Origins and remedies
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Research in Science Education, 1994, 24, 348-357
SELF-EFFICACY AND SCIENCE ANXIETY AMONG PRESERVICE PRIMARY TEACHERS: ORIGINS AND REMEDIES
James J. Watters & lan S. Ginns Queensland University of Technology
The preservice training of primary teachers is an opportunity to provide positive experiences which may ameliorate students' anxiety about science and science teaching, and enhance their beliefs that they may become effective science teachers. The previous and current science related experiences, and beliefs, of an intake of primary teachers participating in an introductory science content subject, were explored. Matter and energy concepts were major content components of the subject. Data were collected from pre- and post-test administrations of psychometric tests designed to measure students' science teaching self-efficacy, science related attitudes, interest in science teaching, and preferred learning environment. A randomly selected sample of students was interviewed at the commencement and finish of the subject. One third of the sample was assigned to a study group in which a constructivist approach to laboratory sessions was adopted. The remainder of the sample experienced a more traditional transmissive format in laboratory sessions. Analysis of the quantitative data revealed no group differences in self-efficacy. Interesting contrasts between students evident in the data from the interviews facilitated the articulation of tentative assertions about the causative factors that may influence the development of students' sense of self-efficacy and possible science related anxiety.
The attitude of primary teachers towards teaching science is implicitly related to their conceptual understanding of science (Tilgner, 1990; Franz & Enochs, 1982). This perception has been further reinforced through studies which concluded that more emphasis should be placed on preservice primary teachers' knowledge of science concepts (Department of Employment Education and Training, 1989). Indeed, as a consequence of these conclusions, recommendations were made to increase the amount of science content studied by preservice primary teachers. However, this direction needs to be considered cautiously as it does not heed the research on preservice teachers' attitudes towards science and science teaching (Lucas & Dooley, 1982; Ginns & Foster, 1983; Koballa & Crawley, 1985; Schibeci, 1984; Fraser, Tobin & Lacy, 1984). Much of this work identified the cyclical nature of "success following success and failure following failure" and consequent effects on attitudes to and feelings about science.
Germann (1988) proposed a theoretical model that might account for the development of students' poor attitudes to science. Students' fatalism, their perceptions of the value of science, teacher quality, classroom social environment and organisation appeared to be significant factors in contributing to this model. The model, in particular, emphasises the contribution of the teacher to the social interaction and learning environment within the classroom and thus the focal point becomes the teacher-learner-curriculum interaction. The teacher's contribution to the interaction is guided by his or her own world view, attitudes, needs, knowledge and priorities (Clark & Peterson, 1986; Shulman, 1987). Attempts to
understand a teacher's ability to cope in such complex interactions, or self-efficacy, have been the objective of research stemming from a social cognitive perspective.
Self-Efficacy Self-efficacy is one construct emerging from social behaviour research (Bandura, 1977). According to this theory behaviour is based on two factors, firstly, people develop a generalised expectancy about action-outcome contingencies through life experiences, or outcome expectancy and, secondly they develop a more personal belief about their own ability to cope, or self-efficacy. In cases where both self-efficacy and outcome expectancies vary, behaviour can be predicted by considering both factors. For example, Bandura hypothesised that a person rating high on both factors would behave in an assured, confident manner. Bandura's self-efficacy model has provided many significant insights into the general behaviour of teachers (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Dembo & Gibson, 1985; Greenwood, Olejnik & Parkay, 1990).
In examining the domain specific area of science from a self-efficacy framework, Enochs and Riggs (1990) developed and validated the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI- B), containing 23 items for preservice elementary teachers in the United States. The two scales that emerged in STEBI-B were labelled Personal Science Teaching Efficacy (PSTE) and Science Teaching Outcome Expectancy (STOE). STEBI-B has also been validated on a population of Australian preservice primary school teachers (Lucas, Ginns, Tulip & Watters, 1993).
Personal science teaching efficacy is correlated with a student's stated preference to, or not to teach science (Lucas et al., 1993). It is apparent that poor science teaching behaviours may be already established at an early stage in students' preservice careers, thus providing further support for the need to explore the contextual factors that influence student teachers' beliefs about science and science teaching, and related anxiety feelings. One approach to the problem may be founded in Bandura's (1977) argument that performance is the major predictor of self-efficacy, which implies that students who experience successful learning will have positive self-efficacy. From a constructivist epistemology, successful learning occurs in a social and emotional context in which knowledge is constructed cooperatively by learners (Pintrich, Marx & Boyle, 1993).
The purposes of the research were to (1) determine if a relationship exists between commencing preservice teachers' self-efficacy and attitudes to science and science teaching by examining correlations between scores on psychometric tests measuring self-efficacy, science related attitudes and desired learning environment, (2) analyse the changes in self- efficacy beliefs and attitudes of a group of students placed in the context of a laboratory learning environment implemented on constructivist principles, and (3) investigate the effect of prior and current science related experiences on self-efficacy by exploring students' recollections of critical incidents that may have influenced self-efficacy.
The design of this study involved the use of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Quantitative data have been obtained through a pretest-posttest design, while rich descriptions of selected participants have been acquired through interview, field notes and observation. The study was implemented during the first semester of 1994.
Subjects The subjects were students commencing year one of a four year primary teacher education program. At the beginning of the program all 161 students enrolled in an introductory science
content subject were randomly assigned to two hour practical laboratory sessions timetabled at regular intervals during the day. Constraints related to room availability and size, timetable realities and assigned staffing limited the extent to which randomised equivalent study groups, associated with two different laboratory learning environments, could be constructed for this research project. Hence, the largest laboratory session quota was subdivided into one study group of 24 students and 48 students in the second study group. Allocation of students to each study group was made on the basis of matched personal science teaching self-efficacy scores obtained in the pretest. Tutor A was in charge of the small study group, and tutors B and C were in charge of the large study group. All enrolled students were required to complete the same subject topics and assessment in accordance with the approved subject outline. Students were required to attend a one hour large group lecture in additiotl to the two hour practical laboratory sessions each week. A further one hour tutorial was voluntary.
Procedures Quantitative measures. In Week 1 of the semester all students enrolled in the science content subject were pretested with the following psychometric instruments:
* a measure of sense of self-efficacy - Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI-B) (Enochs & Riggs, 1990);
* a measure of the students' desired learning environment - modified Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) (Taylor, Fraser & White, 1994).
* a measure of science related attitudes - Test of Science Related Attitudes (TOSRA) (Fraser, 1981);
* a measure of interest in science teaching - Subject Preference Inventory (SPI) (Markle, 1978);
The SPI instrument has been validated for use with the level of students being investigated in this study (Lucas et al., 1993). TOSRA measures attitudes to science in seven conceptually different areas and has been validated using high school children (Fraser, 1981). The CLES instrument was modified in the pretest version by rephrasing questions in the future tense as an indication of how students, as tertiary students, would like their class to operate, At the end of the semester all students were posttested using the same forms of the tests.
Qualitative measures. The quantitative measures were complemented by a series of interviews of students in the two study groups. Interviews were semi-structured and undertaken in the second week of semester, and in the last week of semester outside scheduled class times. Forty eight students, 24 from each study group, completed the initial interview. The interviews were designed to encourage students to focus on critical incidents in their life that related to their learning of science either at school during the first interview, and their experiences in relation to the relevant learning environment, or intervention, in the second interview. Research assistants were used to conduct interviews and, where practicable, both pre- and post-interviews were completed by the same assistant. Each interviewer attended a group training and briefing session. Two members of the research team analysed the interviews and alternative interpretations were reconciled by discussion.
Intervention groups. Both study groups were involved in practical laboratory sessions at the same time in two different rooms. Tutor A adopted a constructivist approach to implementing the laboratory session with a focus on identifying students' own prior knowledge and building on naive understandings of concepts taught in the subject (Yager, 1991). Students were actively encouraged to discuss their own interpretations with peers and a journal containing reflective comments and insights was kept by both the students and the tutor. The students were explicitly informed that they were involved in an alternative mode of teaching and learning and how their role as students could be different. The large group laboratory session was presented in a transmissive mode with the tutors presenting a 20-30 minute introduction,
followed by a summary of the concepts being studied and laboratory activities being implemented. In order to verify that the characteristics of the two treatments were different and in accord with the design, one researcher attended both sessions on an ad hoc basis to observe and note tutor-student interactions and styles of teaching. Furthermore, implementation of the program was discussed during weekly meetings with the tutors and, at the conclusion of the semester, tutors A and C were interviewed and questioned about the philosophy and style of teaching that they adopted.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Analysis of quantitative data Pre- inte~ention. Significant correlations between pretest scores on the STEBI-B scales, personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) and science teaching outcome expectancy (STOE), and scale scores on SPI, TOSRA and CLES are shown in Table 1 for the whole group.
TABLE 1 SIGNIFICANT CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SCORES ON THE PRETEST STEBI-B SCALES,
AND SCALE SCORES ON SPI, TOSRA, AND CLES ~ =149)
TEST VARIABLE PSTE Scale STOE Scale
SPI Maths teaching preference .18 * Science teaching preference .38 * * *
Social Implications of Science (SIS) .1 7 * Normality of Scientists (NS) Attitude to Scientific Inquiry (ASI) .17 * Adoption of Scientific Attitudes (ASA) .31 * * * .25 * * Enjoyment of Science (ESL) .38 *** .16 * Leisure Interest in Science (LIS) .34 * * * .22 * * Career Interest in Science (CIS) .42 * * *
Personal Relevance of Science (PRS) Scientific Uncertainty Scale (SUS) Critical Voice Scale (CVS) Shared Control Scale (SCS) Student Negotiation Scale (SNS) Attitude Scale (AS)
.36 * * * .20 * Note: * p
three variables uniquely contributed to 26% of the variability in PSTE. Thus, those students who initially expressed a positive confidence in their ability to teach science were also interested in science and had expressed a positive attitude towards doing science activities. These students have a strong preference to teach science over other subjects in .the primary curriculum. A multiple regression with STOE as dependent variable revealed that Critical voice (CLES), Adoption of Scientific Attitudes (TOSRA), and Reading Teaching Preference (SPI) contributed to only 13% of the variability in STOE. Therefore, STOE is more weakly related to the various scales measured, which might be expected as these scales relate to beliefs about oneself and not other's behaviours.
Intervention effects. Posttest data for the whole group reveal a small positive change in the mean PSTE score, and significant negative changes in the mean STOE score, and a number of mean scale scores on TOSRA and CLES (Table 2). STEBI-B data were also analysed to identify possible intervention effects on each study group. Posttest scores were compared between the two groups using ANCOVA with pretest scores entered as covariates and corrected for differences in cell means. No significant differences were noted at alpha .05.
TABLE 2 PRETEST AND POSTTEST MEAN SCORES ON STEBI, TOSRA AND CLES (_N=107)
TEST SCALE PRETEST POSTTEST DIFF (SD) SIG
STEBI-B PSTE 44.86 45.82 0.96 (6.2) ns STOE 35.23 34.40 -0.83 (4.2) < .05
TOSRA SIS 36.49 35.28 -1.21 (4.2)
examine the qualitative data from the interviews. These data are discussed in the following section.
Analysis. of qualitative data Observations of the two intervention groups indicated that changes in styles of teaching occurred during the semester. These observations were supported by comments made during the interviews with the tutors. Tutor A, while implementing strategies that were consistent with a constructivist epistemology, recognised that external constraints such as evaluation were issues of constant concern to the students. Students' negative reactions to the rigid structure of the transmissive mode of learnin...