Stability of Pre-Service Science Teacher Attitudes on Science Teachers, Courses, and Classroom Methods. (the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)

Article excerpt


Attitudes of pre-service teachers about practicing teachers, instructional techniques and science courses given at various grade levels are examined. Although pre-service teachers prepare lessons using techniques advocated by reform efforts to meet course objectives while in a methods course, choices seem to revert back to more traditional strategies. Constructivism proposes that the reason for temporary learning in precollegiate classrooms is because the "new" knowledge has not been successfully locked onto an existing framework. The same reasoning can be used for learning about but not using reform-based teaching techniques by pre-service teachers. Osgood's semantic differential is used to measure attitudes.


Studies in the literature on attitudes of potential science teachers concerning how students learn or how classrooms operate indicate that neither completion of a methods course nor student teaching experiences have any great effect on pre-existing beliefs (Cronin-Jones and Shaw 1992). These authors state that potential teachers "have an organized belief structure regarding teaching when they enter methods instruction" (p.22). Conceptualization of what teaching is and how teachers act forms in elementary school and solidifies in secondary school and college. This conceptualization seems to change little after the decision to become a teacher is made (Mellado 1998). Stigler and Hiebert (1998) make the case for teaching as a cultural activity--something guided by a "cultural script" learned by participating in schooling and play-acting about it. The script is guided by observation of classrooms, by family conversations and viewing TV and movies. In many of the aforementioned situations the teacher is the central figure--a sage, a cajoler, a mother-figure, a drill sergeant or even a clown. Work by Roos, Kocel, and Islam (1995) show that early observation assignments in schools reaffims the pre-service student's commitment to teaching.

Reform efforts advocate the use of group learning strategies and group or individual inquiry-guided methods (Weaver 1998). However, these procedures are still not widely used in classrooms. Stigler and Hiebert (1998) suggest that U. S. teachers take their responsibilities seriously and provide detailed guidance and plenty of practice to their students. This feeling of responsibility is reinforced by the contemporary trend of legislated teacher accountability. Teachers plan tightly sequenced lessons so that each step along the way is clearly illustrated. Lecture is the most frequently chosen teaching strategy. Some propensity for traditional lectures and verification labs may be due to anticipated class management problems. Preferred methods are those that keep the class under the teacher's control (Tobin, Tippins, Gallard1994) and conform to what both teacher and student expect in the classroom. Lecture allows teachers to focus interest and limit active interaction between both students and teacher and students and other students. Lecture and note taking also relieve the student of personal responsibility for working instantaneously with new ideas/concepts. These methods take the pressure off young, frail egos and are therefore preferred not only by teachers but also by students. Hildebrand (1999) notes that when teachers attempt to change the "pedagogic contract" -- what students expect to happen in class -- students are uneasy. This uneasiness stems from feelings that the balance of trust between teachers and students is disrupted. Students are not certain how a teacher will judge work done under unfamiliar methods.


Data Gathering Instrument

The semantic differential strives to clarify links between attitudes and behavior. The method is an elaboration of the Likert scale and is a multi variate differentiation of concept meanings in terms of a limited number of semantic scales of known factor compositions (Osgood, Suci, and Tannenbaum 1957, p 42). …