The impact of inquiry-based instructional methods in improving pre-service K-5 teachers' self-efficacy

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm Student Union: Ballroom B
Poster Session Part of Wednesday Session


Cinzia Cervato, Iowa State University
Charles Kerton, Iowa State University
It is known that pre-service elementary school teachers have low science teaching self-efficacy (i.e., low confidence in their ability to teach science), which in turn can influence negatively the quality of science education in elementary grades.

We have collected over three years self-efficacy data on more than 300 pre-service K-5 teachers enrolled in a hybrid (online + face-to-face inquiry-based lab) course on Earth & Space Science. Data were collected over five different offerings of the course enabling us to investigate the effect of different instructional strategies on student self-efficacy as well as the effects of variation in class size and academic level. Activities designed to improve self-efficacy included a writing-to-learn assignment, the development of demonstrations suitable for the K-5 classroom targeting known children's misconceptions, and the writing of lesson plans. Two offerings of the class had no specific activity.

To assess our students' science teaching self-efficacy, we used the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI-B), which consists of two components, Personal Science Teaching Efficacy (PSTE) and Science Teaching Outcomes Expectancy (STOE), deployed as an anonymous online survey through the course's LMS. Students completed the survey at the start (pre-test) and at the end of the course (post-test), and results were compared both on individual questions and as a whole.

In every semester, we found statistically significant increases in the students' science-teaching self efficacy in the PSTE scores while STOE scores showed no change. These results are comparable to what other researchers found at other institutions offering inquiry-based courses on the same content but with significantly smaller enrollments. The robustness of these results suggests that while specific activities aimed at improving self-efficacy can be useful, the most important aspect of the course is that it must include some aspect of inquiry.