First-year secondary science teachers’ beliefs about labs
Foster, Rachel Elizabeth
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This study examines three first-year secondary science teachers’ espoused beliefs about laboratories and their classroom actions. From a cognitive constructivist perspective, I conducted case studies to examine the beliefs that Caroline, Jake, and Lane held about laboratory teaching and the tensions that emerged when their espoused beliefs and classroom actions were in conflict. From an analysis of interview, observation, and archival data, I constructed a profile of each first-year teacher’s beliefs about science laboratories. Caroline, Jake, and Lane each held beliefs about the purpose and the structure of laboratories. Caroline’s most salient belief concerned the purpose of laboratories as motivators. Caroline encountered tensions in thinking about laboratory teaching as a result of inconsistencies between her desire for students to have fun and their apathy toward engaging in laboratories. Jake’s most salient belief involved his need to control student behavior and laboratory procedures. Jake’s tensions in thinking about laboratory teaching emerged due to inconsistencies between his desire for student-centered learning and his need to maintain control of student behavior. Additionally, a tension emerged between Jake’s espoused student-centered beliefs and his perception of his students’ lack of confidence. Lane’s most salient belief focused on laboratories as useful tools for verifying lectured course material. Lane encountered tensions in thinking about laboratory teaching as a result of inconsistencies between her espoused student-centered beliefs and her desire to meet the expectations of her mentor teacher. The findings contribute to an understanding of the inconsistencies between the espoused beliefs and classroom actions of first-year teachers. Their struggles to bring their beliefs about laboratories into concert with the realities of their classrooms and the unique challenges of beginning science teachers are highlighted. Furthermore, the findings underscore the significance of identifying and challenging preservice teachers’ beliefs early in teacher education programs in an effort to align them with reform efforts toward more student-centered teaching. Implications for science teacher education programs are discussed and suggestions are made for future research.