Preservice Teachers’ Images of Scientists: Do Prior Science Experiences Make a Difference?

Jun. 01, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 24, Issue 4, June 2013, p. 745-762.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The study outlined in this article used the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST) to explore the views of scientists held by preservice students in science methods classes at both the elementary and secondary levels.
The authors designed this study to help them identify the extent to which their students hold stereotypical views of scientists and to examine how those stereotypes might be influenced by formal and informal prior experiences in science.

The two guiding questions for this study were:
(1) What differences in visual representations of scientists can be found between the students in different education programs; and,
(2) How are those differences related to preservice teachers’ prior science experiences?

A questionnaire was also administered to 165 students who were enrolled in elementary (K–8) and secondary (8–12) science methods courses at the University of Victoria, Canada, between 2008 and 2010.


The images drawn by preservice teachers reflected the stereotype of a scientist as a man with a wild hairdo who wears a lab coat and glasses while working in a laboratory setting.
The findings revealed that the students with greater previous science experience at both the secondary and post-secondary level would create visual representations of scientist that were significantly less stereotypical than representations created by students with lesser previous science experience

However, results indicated statistically significant differences in stereotypical components of representations of scientists depending on preservice teachers’ program and previous science experiences.
Additionally, they obtained a significant result indicating that preservice teachers who have previously completed a university degree, regardless of the subject, generate images of scientists that have fewer stereotypical physical characteristics compared to preservice teachers who do not have a previous degree and are pursuing education as their first degree.
Together, these results suggest that both intensive formal education in science and more comprehensive prior education can mitigate the stereotypical qualities of preservice teachers’ images of scientists.


The authors conclude that the visual data that they collected during this study have given them a clearer understanding of just what those stereotypic images might be for students in each of three specific education programs and for students with specific backgrounds and experiences.
Their approach to teaching science methods includes helping their students to see themselves as science teachers by encouraging them to conceptualize science as an activity that they and their own students can engage in collaboratively, indoors and out, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age.

Updated: Jul. 16, 2014