The Influence of Student Teaching on Preservice Elementary Teachers' Science Self-Efficacy and Outcome Expectancy Beliefs

Article excerpt

This investigation, examined the impact of the student teaching semester on preservice elementary teachers' personal efficacy and outcome expectancy beliefs in science teaching. Quantitative data were gathered from the Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument (STEBI-B)--which was administered to determine the personal science teaching efficacy and science teaching outcome expectancy for each subject. Involvement in the student teaching semester did not appear to have influenced the subjects' sense of personal science teaching self-efficacy; however, the significance of the change in outcome expectancy scores suggests that during the student teaching semester specific influences deteriorated the confidence of these student teachers.


Preservice elementary teachers arrive at their student teaching semester with established values, attitudes, and beliefs. They carry with them a lifetime of experiences as learners which strongly influence the way they think about teaching and learning (Ball, 1988; Lortie, 1975). In particular, the beliefs they have about science play a critical role in shaping their patterns of instructional behavior (Thompson, 1992; Tobin, Tippins, & Gallard, 1994). The pedagogical knowledge that they have garnered from methods classes and field work in classrooms also influences their teaching philosophy in regards to science. Many preservice teachers enter their student teaching semester with limited conceptual understandings of scientific ideas regardless of how many previous science classes they have had (Riggs, 1991). This can lead to apprehensions about their ability to teach and their effectiveness as teachers in the area of science. The issue of how to alter preservice teachers' beliefs about science and their ability to teach this subject during their student teaching semester is of considerable interest in the field of science education. In a situation-specific context such as the teaching of science in elementary schools, any concerns that student teachers have about their adequacy as science educators may ultimately result in the implementation of poorly conceptualized and ineffective learning experiences in science that involve little more than a perfunctory commitment of effort and time (Ginns & Watters, 1990). This certainly seems to be the case as over the past several decades the condition of science education in elementary schools has been questioned and concerns have been stated about the quality and amount of instruction in science (eg. Tilgner, 1990; Gee, 1996). "Although one could increase the amount of science in preservice courses, this action would not necessarily lead to increased commitment to the teaching of science by teachers" (Ginns & Watters, 1990, p. 4). Any one of these factors may be the cause of problems in elementary science education. Research into self-efficacy and related science teaching behaviors may provide solutions to these and other problems (Riggs, 1991).

Much of the recent research and thought on efficacy is based upon the social cognitive theory of Bandura (Bandura, 1977; Bandura, 1986; Bandura, 1989; Bandura, 1995). Bandura considers self-reflection the most uniquely human capability, for through this form of self-referent thought people evaluate and alter their own thinking and behavior. These self-evaluations include perceptions of self-efficacy, that is, "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations" (Bandura, 1986, p. 389). In his theory, Bandura (1986) pronounced, "Among the different aspects of self-knowledge, perhaps none is more influential in people's everyday lives than conceptions of their personal efficacy" (Bandura, 1986, p. 390). Even though individuals may possess certain skills, there is a distinct difference between possessing such skills and being able to perform them. …