Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1049-1072

First online:

The Science Semester: Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry for Prospective Elementary Teachers

  • Danielle J. FordAffiliated withSchool of Education, University of Delaware Email author 
  • , Steve FifieldAffiliated withThe Franklin Institute
  • , John MadsenAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, University of Delaware
  • , Xiaoyu QianAffiliated withSchool of Education, University of Delaware

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We describe the Science Semester, a semester-long course block that integrates three science courses and a science education methods course for elementary teacher education majors, and examine prospective elementary teachers’ developing conceptions about inquiry, science teaching efficacy, and reflections on learning through inquiry. The Science Semester was designed to provide inquiry-oriented and problem-based learning experiences, opportunities to examine socially relevant issues through cross-disciplinary perspectives, and align with content found in elementary curricula and standards. By the end of the semester, prospective elementary teachers moved from naïve to intermediate understandings of inquiry and significantly increased self-efficacy for science teaching as measured on one subscore of the STEBI-B. Reflecting on the semester, prospective teachers understood and appreciated the goals of the course and the PBL format, but struggled with the open-ended and student-directed elements of the course.


Preservice teacher education Elementary teacher education Inquiry Science education Self-efficacy