Science teaching anxiety : the impact of beliefs on teacher preferences of instructional strategies
The purpose of this descriptive, mixed-method study was to explore a possible relationship between teacher beliefs and their philosophy of teaching. A theoretical framework depicted connections among levels of science anxiety and science teaching self-efficacy, and their influences on elementary teacher instructional preferences for a traditional or inquiry-based model of instruction. A card-sorting methodology was adapted to create an interview protocol that examined teacher instructional practices within the framework of an inquiry continuum. Teacher groups were identified quantitatively with two existing instruments to examine science anxiety and science teaching self-efficacy. Subtests of both the Science State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI) were administered through an online survey and completed by 86 elementary teachers of science in a large urban school district. From the survey data teachers were grouped by levels of anxiety and self-efficacy in order to further examine their beliefs. Results identified three groups of teachers meriting additional investigation - low anxiety and high self-efficacy, high anxiety and low self-efficacy, and high anxiety and high self-efficacy. From these groups, eight total participants were interviewed using a semi-structured protocol consisting of a science teaching scenario card sort and open-ended questions to classify groups of teachers as primarily learner- or teacher-centered, and preferring a traditional or inquiry-based method of instruction. Based on qualitative coding for levels of inquiry and responses to questions probing teacher beliefs and practices, all of the teachers were classified as preferring a primarily teacher-centered model of instruction, thus upholding the theoretical framework for the high anxiety groups. In contradiction to the expectations described in the theoretical framework, the low anxiety and high self-efficacy group stated one of the strongest preferences for traditional instruction. In conclusion the low anxiety group may have preferred a traditional approach in order to meet campus expectations of instructional strategies that promote passing scores on standardized tests. Implications suggest that explicit instruction is needed on the essential features of inquiry for teachers during the preservice and induction phase of their careers, and additional professional development support for practicing elementary teachers.