Investigating and stimulating primary teachers’ attitudes towards science: A large-scale research project

Main Article Content

Juliette Walma van der Molen
Sandra Iris van Aalderen-Smeets

Abstract

Attention to the attitudes of primary teachers towards science is of fundamental importance to research on primary science education. The current article describes a large-scale research project that aims to overcome three main shortcomings in attitude research, i.e. lack of a strong theoretical concept of attitude, methodological flaws in attitude research, and ineffective interventions. The research project included (a) the development of a new theoretical framework for teachers’ attitudes towards (teaching) science, (b) a new validated survey instrument (the DAS) to measure the different underlying components of primary teachers’ attitudes toward teaching science, and (c) an in-service professional development training course based on the previously developed theoretical framework. The framework of attitude consists of three dimensions: cognitive beliefs, affect, and perceived control, each consisting of several subcomponents. By means of the survey instrument we investigated the effects of the attitude focussed training course. The course aimed to improve attitude by creating awareness about teachers’ own attitudes, stimulating their scientific attitudes and curiosity, and training inquiry and thinking skills. The course refrained from providing recipe-like example lessons, materials, or methods. Using a pre-post, experimental-control design we showed that the course significantly improved the affective and perceived control dimension of attitude. Teachers enjoyed teaching science more, showed increased self-efficacy, and felt less dependent on external factors. This project shows that genuine attitude improvements of primary teachers can be accomplished by attitude focussed professional development.

Article Details

How to Cite
Walma van der Molen, J., & van Aalderen-Smeets, S. I. (2013). Investigating and stimulating primary teachers’ attitudes towards science: A large-scale research project. Frontline Learning Research, 1(2), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v1i2.27
Section
Articles
Author Biographies

Juliette Walma van der Molen, University of Twente, the Netherlands Centre for Science Education and Talent Development (SETD)

Centre for Science Education and Talent Development (SETD)

ELAN

Professor

Sandra Iris van Aalderen-Smeets, University of Twente, the Netherlands Centre for Science Education and Talent Development (SETD)

Centre for Science Education and Talent Development (SETD)

ELAN

Senior researcher

References

Asma, L.J.F., Walma van der Molen, J.H., & van Aalderen-Smeets, S.I. (2011). Primary teachers’ attitudes towards science: Results of a focus group study. In M.J. de Vries, H. van Keulen, S. Peters, & J.H. Walma van der Molen (Eds.). Professional development for primary teachers in science. The Dutch VTB-Pro project in an international perspective (pp. 89–105). Rotterdam: Sense.
Barmby, P., Kind, P.M., & Jones, K. (2008). Examining changing attitudes in secondary school science. International Journal of Science Education, 30, 1075–1093. doi: 10.1080/09500690701344966.
Bennett, J., Rollnick, M., Green, G., & White, M. (2001). The development and use of an instrument to assess students’ attitude to the study of chemistry. International Journal of Science Education, 23, 833–845. doi: 10.1080/09500690010006554.
Coulson, R. (1992). Development of an instrument for measuring attitudes of early childhood educators towards science. Research in Science Education, 22, 101–105.
Gardner, P.L. (1995). Measuring attitudes to science: Unidimensionality and internal consistency revisited. Research in Science Education, 25, 283–289. doi: 10.1007/BF02357402.
Haney, J.J., Czerniak, C.M., & Lumpe, A.T. (1996). Teacher beliefs and intentions regarding the implementation of science education reform strands. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33, 971–993. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(199611)33:9,971::AID-TEA2.3.0.CO;2-S.
Harlen, W., & Holroyd, C. (1997). Primary teachers’ understanding of concepts of science: Impact on confidence and teaching. International Journal of Science Education, 19, 93–105. doi: 10.1080/0950069970190107.
Jarvis, T., & Pell, A. (2004). Primary teachers’ changing attitudes and cognition during a two-year science inservice program and their effect on pupils. International Journal of Science Education,26, 1787–1811. doi: 10.1080/0950069042000243763.
Osborne, J., Simon, S., & Collins, S. (2003). Attitudes towards science: A review of the literature and its implications. International Journal of Science Education, 25, 1049–1079. doi: 10.1080/0950069032000032199.
Osborne, J., & Dillon, J. (2008). Science education in Europe: Critical reflections (a report to the Nuffield Foundation). London: the Nuffield Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.pollen-europa.net/pollen dev/Images Editor/Nuffield report.pdf.
Pajares, M.F. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62, 307–332. doi: 10.3102/00346543062003307.
Reid, N. (2006). Thoughts on attitude measurement. Research in Science & Technological Education, 24, 3–27.
Tai, R. H, Liu, C. Q, Maltese, A. V, & Fan, X. (2006). Planning early for careers in science. Science, 312, 1143-1145.
Turner, S., & Ireson, G. (2010). Fifteen pupils’ positive approach to primary school science: When does it decline? Educational Studies, 36, 119-141.
Tosun, T. (2000). The beliefs of preservice elementary teachers towards science and science teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 100, 374–379. doi: 10.1111/j.1949-8594.2000.tb18179.x.
van Aalderen-Smeets, S.I., Walma van der Molen, J.H., & Asma, L.J.F. (2012). Primary teachers’ attitude toward science: A new theoretical framework. Science Education, 96, 158–182. doi: 10.1002/sce.20467.
van Aalderen-Smeets, S. I. & Walma van der Molen, J. H. (2013a). Measuring primary teachers’ attitudes toward teaching science: development of the Dimensions of Attitude towards Science (DAS) instrument. International Journal of Science Education, 35, 4, 577-600. doi:10.1080/09500693.2012.755576.
van Aalderen-Smeets, S. I. & Walma van der Molen, J. H. (2013b). Improving primary teachers’ attitudes toward science by attitude focussed professional development. (submitted).
Walma van der Molen, J.H., Aalderen-Smeets, van, S.I., & Groot Koerkamp, E. (2011). Cursusboek talentontwikkeling, wetenschap en techniek: Professionalisering voor basisschoolleerkrachten [Coursebook talent development, science, and technology: Professional development for primary teachers]. Knowledge Center for Science and Technology (KWTO).
Yates, S., & Goodrum, D. (1990). How confident are primary school teachers in teaching science? Research in Science Education, 20, 300–305. doi: 10.1007/BF02620506.