Preservice Early Childhood Teachers’ Learning of Science in a Methods Course: Examining the Predictive Ability of an Intentional Learning Model

Jun. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Voume 25, Issue 4, June 2014, p. 413–444
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to examine the predictive ability of an intentional learning model in the change of preservice early childhood teachers’ conceptual understanding of lunar phases. More specifically, the aim of this study was to identify the factors that help preservice early childhood teachers benefit most from an empirically tested conceptual change orientated instructional intervention.

The participants were fifty-two preservice early childhood teachers, who were enrolled in an early childhood science methods course.
Participants received instruction while enrolled in a science methods course designed for preservice early childhood teachers. A total of 6 hours of class time was devoted to instruction on lunar concepts. Participants recorded daily moon observations from the Starry Night Backyard software during class time.
Data were collected through semi-structured interviews were conducted before and after instruction using a set of interview questions; and a Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), which was designed to measure motivation and use of learning strategies by college students, was used to assess the participants’ level of motivation and use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies.


Results suggest that use of metacognitive strategies facilitated preservice teachers’ use of deep-level cognitive strategies, which in turn promoted their scientific conceptual understandings of the cause of the moon phases.
Results also provided evidence for the hypothesized indirect effect of motivational beliefs on conceptual change. Motivational beliefs, self-efficacy, mastery goal orientation, and task-value, had direct influences on preservice teachers’ use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies. Participants with high motivational beliefs were more likely to use cognitive and metacognitive strategies. Overall, results provided evidence for the predictive ability of the hypothesized model of intentional conceptual change in explaining the change in conceptual understandings of the cause of the moon phases.

The findings of the present study indicate that use of deep-level cognitive strategies facilitates the restructuring of the alternative conceptual understandings. It appears that the use of elaboration and organization strategies allowed preservice early childhood teachers to make connections between the elements of scientific conceptual understanding of the cause of lunar phases and process the course content more efficiently. Therefore, preservice early childhood teachers’ use of elaboration and organization strategies should be promoted, explicitly taught, and modeled in early childhood science methods courses to promote scientific conceptual understanding.
In the present study preservice teachers who frequently use metacognitive strategies were more likely to use cognitive strategies that facilitate the development of scientific conceptual understanding. Therefore, instructional strategies designed to facilitate conceptual change should also incorporate strategies to promote preservice teachers’ motivational beliefs in early childhood science methods courses.

Metacognitive strategies also can be explicitly taught or embedded within the instructional design. Examples include asking questions that invite preservice teachers to reflect on their conceptual understandings before the instruction, providing opportunities for them to test their ideas with the use of physical or computer generated models, and discussing the similarities and differences between their ideas in small groups can promote their regulation and monitoring of cognitive processing.
The findings of the current study suggest that motivational beliefs encouraged preservice early childhood teachers to initiate and sustain the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies. Cognitive engagement in turn facilitated preservice teachers’ monitoring of their learning process, promoted their awareness of the content of the specific theories they held about the lunar concepts, and helped them to revise and restructure their mental models of the cause of the lunar phases.

Updated: Apr. 06, 2016