The relationship between nature of science understandings and science self-efficacy beliefs of sixth grade students
Bandura (1986) posited that self-efficacy beliefs help determine what individuals do with the knowledge and skills they have and are critical determinants of how well skill and knowledge are acquired. Research has correlated self-efficacy beliefs with academic success and subject interest (Pajares, Britner, & Valiante, 2000). Similar studies report a decreasing interest by students in school science beginning in middle school claiming that they don't enjoy science because the classes are boring and irrelevant to their lives (Basu & Barton, 2007). The hypothesis put forth by researchers is that students need to observe models of how science is done, the nature of science (NOS), so that they connect with the human enterprise of science and thereby raise their self-efficacy (Britner, 2008). This study examined NOS understandings and science self-efficacy of students enrolled in a sixth grade earth science class taught with explicit NOS instruction.
The research questions that guided this study were (a) how do students' self-efficacy beliefs change as compared with changes in their nature of science understandings?; and (b) how do changes in students' science self-efficacy beliefs vary with gender and ethnicity segregation? A mixed method design was employed following an embedded experimental model (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). As the treatment, five NOS aspects were first taught by the teachers using nonintegrated activities followed by integrated instructional approach (Khishfe, 2008). Students' views of NOS using the Views on Nature of Science (VNOS) (Lederman, Abd-El-Khalick, & Schwartz, 2002) along with their self-efficacy beliefs using three Likert-type science self-efficacy scales (Britner, 2002) were gathered. Changes in NOS understandings were determined by categorizing student responses and then comparing pre- and post-instructional understandings. To determine changes in participants' self-efficacy beliefs as measured by the three subscales, a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was conducted.
Findings indicated that explicit NOS instruction was effective for all students except minority (Black, Hispanic, Asian, or multiracial) male students in improving NOS understandings. Furthermore, all students that received NOS instruction demonstrated decreased anxiety towards science. Future research should focus on long-term investigations of changes in anxiety and value of research constructs with regards to NOS instruction.
0714: Science education
0727: Curriculum development