Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 33, Issue 4, p. 349–364, 2012
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an integrated science and mathematics methods course on preservice early childhood teachers’ efficacy beliefs for integrating science and mathematics in early childhood classrooms.
More specifically, answers to the following research questions were sought in the study:
How do the participants’ efficacy beliefs for science teaching, mathematics teaching, and integrating mathematics and science relate?
Is an integrated science and mathematics methods course effective for increasing participants’ self-efficacy scores from pre- to posttest assessments?
What are the participants’ experiences and perceptions of integration before and after the integrated science and mathematics methods course?
This study utilized a quasi-experimental design with two treatment groups.
Participants in two cohorts were tested to assess their efficacy beliefs for teaching science, mathematics, and integrating science and mathematics before and immediately after instruction that lasted 8 weeks.
Cohorts were randomly assigned into “science first” (SF) or “mathematics first” (MF) groups.
The participants were 34 preservice early childhood teachers enrolled in an integrated science and mathematics methods course, which was a part of an intensive Master’s in Education early childhood education prekindergarten to Grade 3 licensure and certification program.
All participants were female.
Eighteen participants were assigned to the SF group and 16 participants assigned to the MF group.
The findings provided evidence that the methods course was effective at enhancing preservice teachers’ efficacy beliefs for integrating science and mathematics.
The results demonstrated that there was no statistically significant difference between the SF (science first) and the MF (mathematics first) groups in the study.
These findings suggest that the order in which the content was taught did not make any difference in the amount of change in preservice teachers’ efficacy beliefs scores from pre- to posttest measures.
Thus, teacher educators can use either order in their implementation of such a methods course with preservice teachers who have similar characteristics.
Four themes were identified to describe participants’ perceptions of integration.
First, preservice teachers often perceived mathematics and science integration as an easy task because they are naturally related domains.
Second, many participants perceived science to be at the center of integration practices, with mathematics and other content areas subordinate to science.
Third, measurement, recording observations, data analysis, and data representation were seen by the preservice teachers as the most common ways of integrating science and mathematics.
Finally, participants mostly focused on the mechanics of integration practices rather than the underlying conceptual basis of curriculum integration.
The most common perceived benefits of integration were time and ease of instructional activities.
The activities also helped participants understand and become more comfortable with concepts such as the basic mathematics they used in more applied and meaningful ways than they themselves may have experienced as young children.
Furthermore, to meet the goals of the two projects in the integration course, the preservice teacher participants needed to, themselves, engage in inquiry.
Their inquiry questions about birds and weather led them to conduct investigations into scientific phenomena and study these phenomena through scientific and mathematical lenses and demonstrate how their inquiries would allow children to experience the connections between the two subjects.
The authors believe strongly that their participants came to understand integration by integrating.
The inquiry, project-based instruction facilitated the participants’ integration of mathematics and science content and processes.