Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Nancy N. Heilbronner, PhD

Second Advisor

Sandra Flank, PhD

Third Advisor

Edward J. Kennedy, EdD

Abstract

This study examined kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school teachers’ self-efficacy regarding classroom science teaching and then related these findings to the daily instructional methods that these teachers use when teaching science. Survey methodology was used to explore the perceptions of elementary school teachers (n = 143) regarding science teaching, specifically relating these perceptions to a number of factors: gender, number of years of experience teaching science, grade level taught, number of elective undergraduate science courses, highest degree earned, and whether or not the participants had earned a science degree. In addition, participants’ self-efficacy was used to predict teachers’ frequency of questioning and thinking strategies in classroom science instruction.

Participants completed the Classroom Science Instruction Survey (CSIS) which included: (a) demographic items, (b) the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Scale (STEBI-A); (c) the Classroom Practices Survey (CPS) that explored teachers’ frequency of questioning and thinking strategies, and (d) open-ended items that explored participants’ underlying perceptions regarding classroom science teaching. Response rate for survey completion was 79.2%.

Multiple regression results indicated that having taken three or more elective undergraduate science courses and teaching fifth grade science significantly predicted self-efficacy in science instruction. In addition, self-efficacy predicted the frequency of questioning and thinking skills used by teachers in the science elementary school classroom. Qualitative results indicated that teachers believed that specific curriculum and teacher-based strategies fostered student interest, and encouraged challenging content and higher-order student thinking skills, which resulted in increased frequency of student questioning. Teachers identified specific inquiry beliefs and practices and their relationship to developing self-efficacy, but noted specific barriers in the elementary school science classroom environment that hinder this process. Implications for educators and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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