Examining kindergarten teachers' beliefs and practices in science education
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This dissertation investigates kindergarten teachers' beliefs and their teaching practices in science education through a qualitative case study. This study addresses these topics by exploring two key issues: First, it illustrates how kindergarten teachers think about teaching science to the students. Second, this study demonstrates how the teachers’ beliefs about teaching science affect the teaching practices in the classroom. The qualitative data was obtained through formal and informal interviews with four kindergarten teachers from a public elementary school. In addition, observation of the science lessons were also conducted. The teachers' beliefs about science education were classified based on Calderhead's (1996) categories about teachers' beliefs: 1) beliefs about students in science classes, 2) beliefs about teaching science classes, 3) beliefs about science as a subject, 4) beliefs about learning to teach science, and 5) beliefs about teachers’ roles in science classes. Based on the categories of teachers' beliefs, this study found a relationship between teachers' beliefs and how they teach science. In particular, the participant teachers preferred hands-on science activities and focused on children's interest in science. Their personal learning history and past schooling experiences appeared to inform their beliefs. However, this research also shows that some of the teachers' beliefs did not match the teaching practices in science lessons. As evidence, contrary to their beliefs, some of the participant teachers did not include as many hands-on activities because of the limited time allowed for science and the characteristics of the topics in science classes. Finally, the findings suggest there are differences between experienced and inexperienced teachers' in the beliefs and practices. For instance, experienced teachers believed that they were able to effectively manage the science classes, whereas inexperienced teachers showed concerns regarding managing the science class. Moreover, the experienced teachers actually demonstrated their expertise in successfully managing the class, while the inexperienced teachers experienced difficulty. Summary of findings, limitation, implications, and future research are discussed.