From Students to Teachers: Investigating the Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs and Experiences of Graduate Primary Teachers

  • James Deehan
  • Lena Danaia
  • David H. McKinnon


The science achievement of primary students, both in Australia and abroad, has been the subject of intensive research in recent decades. Consequently, much research has been conducted to investigate primary science education. Within this literature, there is a striking juxtaposition between tertiary science teaching preparation programs and the experiences and outcomes of both teachers and students alike. Whilst many tertiary science teaching programs covary with positive outcomes for preservice teachers, reports of science at the primary school level continue to be problematic. This paper begins to explore this apparent contradiction by investigating the science teaching efficacy beliefs and experiences of a cohort of graduate primary teachers who had recently transitioned from preservice to inservice status. An opportunity sample of 82 primary teachers responded to the science teaching efficacy belief instrument A (STEBI-A), and 10 graduate teachers provided semi-structured interview data. The results showed that participants’ prior science teaching efficacy belief growth, which occurred during their tertiary science education, had remained durable after they had completed their teaching degrees and began their careers. Qualitative data showed that their undergraduate science education had had a positive influence on their science teaching experiences. The participants’ school science culture, however, had mixed influences on their science teaching. The findings presented within this paper have implications for the direction of research in primary science education, the design and assessment of preservice primary science curriculum subjects and the role of school contexts in the development of primary science teachers.


Primary science education Preservice primary teaching Transition Science teaching efficacy beliefs School science cultures Mixed methods 


  1. Abraham, J. (2013). Preparing for the future by reparing now: Retaining students in senior secondary physics. Curriculum & Leadership Journal, 11(9) (in press).Google Scholar
  2. Andersen, A. M., Dragsted, S., Evans, R. H., & Sørensen, H. (2004). The relationship between changes in teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs and the science teaching environment of Danish first-year elementary teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 15(1), 25–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angle, J., & Moseley, C. (2009). Science teacher efficacy and outcome expectancy as predictors of students’ end-of-instruction (EOI) biology I test scores. School Science and Mathematics, 109(8), 473–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Angus, M., Onley, H., Ainley, J., Caldwell, B., Burke, G., & Selleck, R. (2004). The sufficiency of resources for Australian primary schools. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training.Google Scholar
  5. Appleton, K. (1992). Discipline knowledge and confidence to teach science: Self-perceptions of primary teacher education students. Research in Science Education, 22, 11–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Appleton, K. (2003). How do beginning primary school teachers cope with science? Toward an understanding of science teaching practice. Research in Science Education, 33(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Appleton, K., & Kindt, I. (2002). Beginning elementary teachers’ development as teachers of science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(1), 43–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2013). National Assessment Program—Science Literacy Year 6 Report 2012 (pp. 1–118). Sydney: ACARA. Retrieved from Scholar
  9. Avery, L. M., & Meyer, D. Z. (2012). Teaching science as science is practiced: opportunities and limits for enhancing preservice elementary teachers’ self-efficacy for science and science teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 112(7), 395–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bandura, A. (1977). Self efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioural change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  12. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy the exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.Google Scholar
  13. Bautista, N. U. (2011). Investigating the use of vicarious and mastery experiences in influencing early childhood education majors’ self-efficacy beliefs. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(4), 333–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bell, R. L., Matkins, J. J., & Gansneder, B. M. (2011). Impacts of contextual and explicit instruction on preservice elementary teachers’ understandings of the nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(4), 414–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Berman, P., McLaughlin, M., Bass, G., Pauly, E., & Zellman, G. (1977). Federal programs supporting educational change: Vol. VII. Factors affecting implementation and continuation (rep. No. R-1589/7-HEW). Santa Monica: RAND (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 140 432).Google Scholar
  16. Betz, N. E., & Hackett, G. (1983). The relationship of mathematics self-efficacy expectations to the selection of science-based college majors. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 23(3), 329–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bleicher, R. E. (2004). Revisiting the STEBI-B: measuring self-efficacy in preservice elementary teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 104(8), 383–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Brígido, M., Borrachero, A. B., Bermejo, M. L., & Mellado, V. (2013). Prospective primary teachers’ self-efficacy and emotions in science teaching. European Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 200–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Burns, R. (2000). Introduction to research methods (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Longman Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Bybee, R. W. (2014). NGSS and the next generation of science teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 25(2), 211–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Campbell, R., & Green, D. (2006). Literacies and learners: current perspectives (3rd ed.). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia.Google Scholar
  22. Cantrell, S. C., Almasi, J. F., Carter, J. C., & Rintamaa, M. (2013). Reading intervention in middle and high schools: implementation fidelity, teacher efficacy, and student achievement. Reading Psychology, 34(1), 26–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Clark, I. (2009). An analysis of the relationship between K-5 elementary school teachers’ perceptions of principal instructional leadership and their science teaching efficacy. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota).Google Scholar
  24. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education. London: Routledge Falmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Coladarci, T. (1992). Teachers’ sense of efficacy and commitment to teaching. The Journal of Experimental Education, 60(4), 323–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Coleman, A., & Pilford, B. (2008). A crash course in SPSS for windows (4th ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Deehan, J. (2013). How do I measure up? A longitudinal investigation of a cohort of Australian pre-service primary teachers’ science experiences. Unpublished Honours Thesis, Charles Sturt University.Google Scholar
  29. Deehan, J. (2016). The science teaching efficacy belief instruments (STEBI A and B): a comprehensive review of methods and findings from 25 years of science education. Basel: Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  30. Deehan, J., Danaia, L., & McKinnon, D. H. (2017). A longitudinal investigation of the science teaching efficacy beliefs and science experiences of a cohort of preservice elementary teachers. International Journal of Science Education, 39, 2548–2573. Scholar
  31. Denessen, E., Vos, N., Hasselman, F., & Louws, M. (2015). The relationship between primary school teacher and student attitudes towards science and technology. Education Research International, 2015.Google Scholar
  32. DeWitt, J., Archer, L., & Osborne, J. (2014). Science-related aspirations across the primary–secondary divide: evidence from two surveys in England. International Journal of Science Education, 36(10), 1609–1629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Enochs, L. G., & Riggs, I. M. (1990). Further development of an elementary science teaching efficacy belief instrument: a preservice elementary scale. School Science and Mathematics, 90(8), 694–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ford, D. J., Allen, D., Dagher, Z., & Donham, R. (2011). Reforming science and science education courses for K-8 pre-service teachers: The University of Delaware Teacher Professional Continuum Project. Paper presented at the NSEUS national conference on Research Based Undergraduate Science Teaching: Investigating Reform in Classrooms, Bryant Conference Center, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa AL.Google Scholar
  35. Gencer, A. S., & Cakiroglu, J. (2007). Turkish preservice science teachers’ efficacy beliefs regarding science teaching and their beliefs about classroom management. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(5), 664–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gibson, S., & Dembo, M. H. (1984). Teacher efficacy: a construct validation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(4), 569–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ginns, I. S., & Watters, J. J. (1999). Beginning elementary school teachers and the effective teaching of science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 10(4), 287–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Goddard, R. D., Hoy, W. K., & Hoy, A. W. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: its meaning, measure, and impact on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goodrum, D., & Rennie, L. (2007). Australian School Science Education—National Action Plan 2008–2012—volume 1. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  40. Goodrum, D., Hackling, M., & Rennie, L. (2001). The status and quality of teaching and learning of science in Australian schools. Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.Google Scholar
  41. Gordon, L. M. (2001). High teacher efficacy as a marker of teacher effectiveness in the domain of classroom management. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the California Council on Teacher Education, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  42. Gordon, C., & Debus, R. (2002). Developing deep learning approaches and personal teaching efficacy within a preservice education context. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72(1), 483–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Griffith, G., & Scharmann, L. (2008). Initial impacts of no child left behind on elementary science education. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 20(3), 35–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hackling, M. (2006). Primary connections: a new approach to primary science and to teacher professional learning. Paper presented at the ACER Research Conference. Retrieved 13th January 2014 from
  45. Hill, H. C., Ball, D. L., & Schilling, S. G. (2008). Unpacking pedagogical content knowledge: conceptualizing and measuring teachers’ topic-specific knowledge of students. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(4), 372–400.Google Scholar
  46. Høigaard, R., Giske, R., & Sundsli, K. (2012). Newly qualified teachers’ work engagement and teacher efficacy influences on job satisfaction, burnout, and the intention to quit. European Journal of Teacher Education, 35(3), 347–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Holzberger, D., Philipp, A., & Kunter, M. (2013). How teachers’ self-efficacy is related to instructional quality: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 774–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Howitt, C. (2007). Pre-service elementary teachers’ perceptions of factors in an holistic methods course influencing their confidence in teaching science. Research in Science Education, 37(1), 41–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Jabot, M. (2002). The effectiveness of a misconceptions-based approach to the teaching of elementary science methods. In Proceedings of the pathways to change international conference on transforming math and science education in the K16 continuum. Arlington: The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Teacher Education Collaborative (STEMTEC).Google Scholar
  50. Jarrett, O. (1999). Science interest and confidence among preservice elementary teachers. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 11(1), 47–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Jarvis, T., & Pell, A. (2005). Factors influencing elementary school children’s attitudes toward science before, during, and after a visit to the UK National Space Centre. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(1), 53–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Jung, M. L. (2004). Out-of-school science-teaching preparation for elementary teacher education students. (Doctoral dissertation, Wayne State University, United States – Michigan).Google Scholar
  53. Kenny, J. D. (2012). University-school partnerships: pre-service and in-service teachers working together to teach primary science. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(3), 57–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kleickmann, T., Tröbst, S., Jonen, A., Vehmeyer, J., & Möller, K. (2016). The effects of expert scaffolding in elementary science professional development on teachers’ beliefs and motivations, instructional practices, and student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(1), 21–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of bloom’s taxonomy: an overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lawrance, G. A., & Palmer, D. A. (2003). Clever teachers, clever sciences: preparing teachers for the challenge of teaching science, mathematics and technology in 21st Century Australia. Canberra: Australian Government, Department of Education, Science and Training: Research Analysis and Evaluation Group.Google Scholar
  57. Lemke, M., Lippman, L., Bairu, G., Calsyn, C., Kruger, T., Jocelyn, L., ... Williams, T. (2001). Outcomes of learning: Results from the 2000 Program for International Student Assessment of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science literacy. Washington: National Centre for Education Statistics.Google Scholar
  58. Lucero, M., Valcke, M., & Schellens, T. (2013). Teachers’ beliefs and self-reported use of inquiry in science education in public primary schools. International Journal of Science Education, 35(8), 1407–1423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lumpe, A. T., Haney, J. J., & Czerniak, C. M. (2000). Assessing teachers’ beliefs about their science teaching context. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(3), 275–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Martin, M. O., Mullis, I. V., Beaton, A. E., Gonzalez, E. J., Smith, T. A., & Kelly, D. L. (1997). Science achievement in the primary school years: IEA’s third international mathematics and science study (TIMSS). Boston: TIMSS International Study Centre, Boston College.Google Scholar
  61. Martin, M. O., Mullis, I. V., Gonzalez, E. J., & Chrostowski, S. J. (2004). TIMSS 2003 international science report: findings from the IEA’s trends in international mathematics and science study at the fourth and eighth grades. Boston: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Centre.Google Scholar
  62. Martin, M. O., Mullis, I. V., & Foy, P. (2008). TIMSS 2007 international science report: findings IEA’s Trends in Internationals Mathematics and Science study at the fourth and eighth grades. Boston: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Centre.Google Scholar
  63. Martin, M. O., Mullis, I. V., Foy, P., & Stanco, G. M. (2012). TIMSS 2011 international results in science. Boston: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Centre.Google Scholar
  64. Martin, M. O., Mullis, I. V. S., Foy, P., & Hooper, M. (2016). TIMSS 2015 International Results in Science. Retrieved from Boston College, TIMSS & PIRLS International Student Center website:
  65. McKinnon, M., & Lamberts, R. (2014). Influencing science teaching self-efficacy beliefs of primary school teachers: a longitudinal case study. International Journal of Science Education, Part B, 4(2), 172–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. McKinnon, D. H., Danaia, L., & Deehan, J. (2017). The design of preservice primary teacher education science subjects: the emergence of an interactive educational design model. Journal of Astronomy & Earth Sciences Education (JAESE), 4(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Mitchell, I., Pannizon, D., Keast, S., & Loughran, J. (2015). Exploring the pedagogical reasoning of expert teachers. Paper presented at the Australian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) Conference, Perth, Australia.Google Scholar
  68. Nie, Y., Tan, G. H., Liau, A. K., Lau, S., & Chua, B. L. (2013). The roles of teacher efficacy in instructional innovation: its predictive relations to constructivist and didactic instruction. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 12(1), 67–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Nillson, P., & Loughran, J. (2011). Exploring the development of pre-service science elementary teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23(7), 699–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. NSW Board of Studies. (2012). Science K-10 syllabus—volume 1: science and technology K-6. Sydney: NSW Board of Studies.Google Scholar
  71. O’Toole, J., & Beckett, D. (2013). Educational research: creative thinking and doing (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. O'Brien, R. G., & Kaiser, M. K. (1985). MANOVA method for analyzing repeated measures designs: an extensive primer. Psychological Bulletin, 97(2), 316–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. OECD. (2004). Learning for tomorrow’s world: first results from PISA 2003. Washington: National Centre for Educational Statistics.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. OECD. (2007). PISA 2006—science competencies for tomorrow’s world: volume 1—analysis. Washington: National Centre for Education Statistics.Google Scholar
  75. OECD. (2010). PISA 2009 results: Executive summary. Google Scholar
  76. OECD. (2013). PISA 2012 results: what students know and can do—student performances in mathematics, reading and science (Vol. 1). OECD Publishing. doi:
  77. Oppenheim, A. N. (2005). Questionnaire design, interviewing and attitude measurement: new edition. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  78. Palmer, D. H. (2006). Sources of self-efficacy in a science methods course for primary teacher education students. Research in Science Education, 36(4), 337–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Palmer, D. (2008). Practices and innovations in Australian science teacher education programs. Journal of Science Education, 38(2), 167–188.Google Scholar
  80. Palmer, D. (2011). Sources of efficacy information in an inservice program for elementary teachers. Science Education, 95(4), 577–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Park, S. (1996). Development and validation of the Korean science teaching efficacy beliefs instrument (K-STEBI) for prospective elementary school teachers (Doctoral dissertation, Pennsylvania State University).Google Scholar
  82. Richardson, G. M., & Liang, L. L. (2008). The use of inquiry in the development of preservice teacher efficacy in mathematics and science. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 20(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Riggs, I. M., & Enochs, L. G. (1990). Toward the development of an elementary teacher’s science teaching efficacy belief instrument. Science Education, 74(6), 625–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Saka, Y. (2007). Exploring the interaction of personal and contextual factors during the induction period of science teachers and how this interaction shapes their enactment of science reform. (Doctoral dissertation, Florida State University).Google Scholar
  85. Sandholtz, J. H., & Ringstaff, C. (2014). Inspiring instructional change in elementary school science: the relationship between enhanced self-efficacy and teacher practices. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 25(6), 729–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Sarikaya, H., Cakiroglu, J., & Tekkaya, C. (2005). Self-efficacy, attitude and science knowledge. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 9(4), 38–42.Google Scholar
  87. Schoon, K. J., & Boone, W. J. (1998). Self-efficacy and alternative conceptions of science of preservice elementary teachers. Science Education, 82(5), 553–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Serin, K., & Bayraktar, Ş. (2014). Pre-service classroom teachers’ science teaching efficacy beliefs and their locus of control status. In Conference proceedings. New Perspectives in Science Education (p. 319). libreriauniversitaria. it Edizioni.Google Scholar
  89. Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalised causal inference. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  90. Sindel, K. D. (2010). Can experiential education strategies improve elementary science teachers' perceptions of and practices in science teaching? (Doctoral dissertation, Lindenwood University).Google Scholar
  91. Smith, A. E., & Humphreys, M. S. (2006). Evaluation of unsupervised semantic mapping of natural language with Leximancer concept mapping. Behavior Research Methods, 38(2), 262–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Sunger, M. (2007). An analysis of efficacy beliefs, epistemological beliefs and attitudes towards science in preservice elementary science teachers and secondary science teachers (Doctoral dissertation, Middle East Technical University).Google Scholar
  93. de la Torre Cruz, M. J., & Casanova Arias, P. F. (2007). Comparative analysis of expectancies of efficacy in in-service and prospective teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 641–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Tosun, T. (2000). The beliefs of preservice elementary teachers toward science and science teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 100(7), 374–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, A. W. (2001). Teacher efficacy: capturing an elusive concept. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 783–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Tytler, R. (2009). School innovation in science: improving science teaching and learning in Australian schools. International Journal of Science Education, 31(13), 1777–1809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Tytler, R., & Griffiths, M. (2003). Spending time on primary science in integrated units. Investigating: Australian Primary Science Journal, 19(1), 12–16.Google Scholar
  98. Tytler, R., Osborne, J., Williams, G., Tytler, K., & Clark, J. C. (2008). Opening up pathways: Engagement in STEM across the primary-secondary school transition. Canberra: Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.Google Scholar
  99. Urban-Woldron, H. (2014). Preparing prospective elementary teachers to teach science: a challenge for teacher education. Open Online Journal for Research and Education, 11(2), 112–117.Google Scholar
  100. Utley, J., Moseley, C., & Bryant, R. (2005). Relationship between science and mathematics teaching efficacy of preservice elementary teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 105(2), 82–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Velthuis, C., Fisser, P., & Pieters, J. (2014). Teacher training and pre-service primary teachers’ self-efficacy for science teaching. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 25(4), 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Wingfield, M. E., Freeman, L., & Ramsey, J. (2000). Science teaching self-efficacy of first year elementary teachers trained in a site based program. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans. Google Scholar
  103. Woolfolk Hoy, A., & Spero, R. B. (2005). Changes in teacher efficacy during the early years of teaching: a comparison of four measures. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21, 343–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Yılmaz, H., & Çavaş, P. (2008). The effect of the teaching practice on pre-service elementary teachers’ science teaching efficacy and classroom management beliefs. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 4(1), 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership? Findings from two decades of scholarship. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 255–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and EducationCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia
  2. 2.School of EducationEdith Cowan UniversityPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations