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Personal science teaching efficacy and the beliefs and practices of elementary teachers related to science instruction


In this study, I examined the relationships among Personal Science Teaching Efficacy (PSTE) beliefs, science teaching practices, and the beliefs about these practices within a nationwide diverse sample of inservice elementary teachers. More specifically, the goal of my study was to answer two questions: (1) How do these teachers with varying levels of self-efficacy compare in the ways that they (a) describe how science should be taught, (b) describe their own science teaching practices, and (c) are actually observed teaching science?; and (2) In what ways are these areas of belief and practice aligned?. In order to answer these questions, data were collected from thirty -eight inservice elementary teachers from across the United States using the Reformed Teacher Observation Protocol (RTOP), semi-structured interviews, and the Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument (STEBI-A). Pearson's correlations and independent sample t-tests of coded qualitative data and quantitative survey data were conducted in order to compare the beliefs and practices regarding science teaching within and across PSTE levels. In addition, eight case profile teachers were chosen with varying combinations of high and low PSTE and RTOP scores in order to examine some of the complexities existing between science teaching self-efficacy beliefs and science teaching behaviors in closer detail. Results revealed that a majority of the positive behaviors commonly associated with greater science teaching self-efficacy, especially giving students more control over their own science learning, did manifest themselves in participants' beliefs about science teaching. However, most of these beliefs did not align with actual observed classroom practices. Interviews and observations of case profile teachers revealed how self-efficacy levels manifested themselves in different ways with different teachers. While there do appear to be some overall advantages to increasing elementary teachers' science teaching self-efficacy, the situation is much more complex than it is sometimes portrayed in the literature; by simply increasing elementary teachers' levels of efficacy beliefs, there is no guarantee that they will actually teach science in a more reformed, inquiry-based manner. The results of my dissertation should, therefore, give science teacher education researchers pause when making blanket assumptions about the benefits of increasing elementary teachers' self-efficacy

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