Investigating Preschool and Primary School Teachers' Self-Efficacy and Needs in Teaching Science: A Pilot Study

By Walan, Susanne; Rundgren, Shu-Nu Chang | CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Investigating Preschool and Primary School Teachers' Self-Efficacy and Needs in Teaching Science: A Pilot Study


Walan, Susanne, Rundgren, Shu-Nu Chang, CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal


Introduction

Developing teachers' professional knowledge, which includes con- tent knowledge (CK), pedagogical knowledge (PK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), has been addressed during past decades (e.g. Shulman, 1986; Bergqvist, Drechsler, de Jong, & Chang Rundgren, 2013). Researchers especially emphasized the role of the teacher as one of the critical factors in relation to students' achievement (e.g. Goodrum, Hackling, & Rennie, 2001; Hattie, 2008; McKinsey, 2007). In line with the importance of developing teachers' profes- sional knowledge and the importance of the teacher's role, a great need has been identified to improve teachers' CK and PCK in preschool and primary school in Sweden (Nilsson, 2008a, 2008b), especially since there have been re- cent curriculum reforms for both preschool (Lpfö 98, revised 2010) and pri- mary school (Lgr 11) (Swedish National Agency for Education, 2011a, 2011b). The new primary school curriculum has embedded the perspectives of science education, in which students skills in making socio-scientific decisions has been stressed. Besides, science was treated as one subject in the earlier versions of curricula, but now, science has been divided into biology, chemistry and physics. Accordingly, it was not hard to perceive that the demands on teachers have been increasing in Sweden. Similar situations were also reported in other countries. Researchers found that teachers at 1- to- 6-grade levels, either lacked educational training in science, or had received only a small part of science training in their earlier teacher education programs and this had been shown to reflect in the teachers' low self-efficacy (Appelton, 1995, 2006; Hackling, Peers, & Prain, 2007; Palmer, 2001; Riggs & Enochs, 1990; Yates & Goodrum, 1990).

Based on the above-mentioned important role of teachers and the need for developing teachers' PCK and CK, this study aims to investigate teachers' self- efficacy and needs in science teaching. Preschool to primary school teachers were invited to express their self-efficacy concerning aspects of scientific literacy, the current curriculum at each level and arrangements for a student learning envi- ronment in science subjects. A Likert scale instrument, developed by EU FP7 project, PROFILES (Grant No. 266589), was revised according to the Swedish context and the related educational levels in this study.

Background

Self-efficacy is defined by Bandura (1993) as a person's belief in an abil- ity to succeed in a particular situation. According to Bandura (1993), self-effi- cacy determines how people feel, think, behave and motivate themselves, and he also indicates that individuals with a strong sense of self-efficacy can view difficult tasks as challenges and try to deal with the difficult tasks rather than avoid them. He also claims that there is a marked difference between possess- ing knowledge and skills and being able to use them well. It means that even if people have the same knowledge and skills, they may perform differently, depending on their self-efficacy (Bandura, 1993). According to Bandura (1993), self-efficacy is mainly about teachers' beliefs in how they can motivate them- selves in promoting students' learning.

In the literature, numerous researchers discuss teachers' confidence (e.g. Anderson, Bartholomew, & Moeed, 2009; Harlen & Holroyd, 1997; Nils- son, 2008a), but no definitions are put forward to differentiate the concepts of self-efficacy, self-confidence, or confidence. However, Hackling and col- leagues (2007), in their study, evaluate primary teachers' confidence and self- efficacy. According to Hackling (an e-mail communication dated 2013-08-27), self-efficacy is a belief about the effectiveness of teaching, whilst confidence for teaching science is a more general attitude and disposition towards teaching science. In this study, we see self-efficacy as competence and confidence defined by PROFILES project and we tested teachers' beliefs about the effectiveness of their organization while teaching science, which is also in line with Hackling's point of view. …

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