Thesis

Do you see what I see? Exploring preschool teachers' science practices

Despite a recent spike in interest due to STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) research, preschool science remains a vitally important yet underdeveloped and often avoided domain within early childhood education (Roehrig, Dubosarsky, Mason, Carlson, & Murphy, 2011). Using a convenience sample, eight preschool teachers from four different schools were observed to gain a better understanding of teachers' recognition of science experiences in early childhood education programs. The ways in which science was implemented, teachers' own self-efficacy in teaching science, and an assessment of each classroom's science environment was explored. Data sources included a curriculum categorization form, demographic questionnaire, a classroom science materials checklist, a science perception and self-efficacy questionnaire, and classroom observations. A prominent theme that emerged from both the literature and current study's observations was the significant impact that self-efficacy appeared to have on teaching science in preschool. Additionally, a correlation between a lack of self-efficacy in teaching science and a reliance on executing pre-planned, teacher-centered science lessons was discovered. Teachers' lack of recognition for science stood out as a possible explanation for the deficiency observed in extended scientific investigations and teacher/child scientific inquiry. Perhaps most interesting, it appears that spontaneous science will emerge regardless of teacher recognition and/or support or availability of science materials especially if the children have adequate access to the outdoor environments.

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