The Conflict Within the Role: A Longitudinal Study of Preschool Student Teachers’ Developing Competence In and Attitudes Towards Science Teaching in Relation to Developing a Professional Role

Feb. 01, 2013

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 1, (2013), p. 80–94.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this exploratory, longitudinal study is to explore the effect of preschool teacher education on competence, confidence, and attitudes towards science and science teaching in relation to a developing professional identity.

The specific research questions addressed are:
How do students’ perceptions of their professional role change during teacher education? How do students’ attitudes towards science and science teaching, as well as confidence and competence in teaching science develop?
How do the perceptions of the teacher’s role and attitudes interact and influence behavior?

The study used a phenomenographic approach within a theoretical framework of sociocultural and situated learning perspective.
The participants were 65 students enrolled in a preschool teacher education program at a Swedish University between 2008 and 2012.
A mixed method approach combining questionnaires using open and closed questions as well as interviews was used.


The results suggest that there was a gradual change in perceptions of the professional role of preschool teachers during the teacher education program and that these shifts were most often expressed as expansions of early views and expectations.
Thus ,the students’ initial views of preschool teachers as primarily caregivers became more complex and multifaceted, also recognizing, for example, responsibilities towards parents and colleagues, pedagogical skills, leadership competence, creativity, influence of sociocultural context, and literacy aspects.
The data show that the students generally already had a positive and relaxed attitude towards science activities with children when starting the program, and that this positive attitude grew with increasing competence and confidence.

Nevertheless, many of them still found science activities to be awkward in preschool, mainly due to a wish to protect the children from school culture.
However, this reluctance was found to be more connected to perceptions of teaching as dogmatic so an inappropriate image for work with young children rather than to the prospect of teaching science.


This situation suggests that teacher educators may need to think innovatively to meet the challenges coming with the press for preschool teachers to take a more active role in “instructing” young children.
The data indicate that the clash between different learning cultures might be an obstacle for this process of blending different competences to come about.

In this setting, it may be that intentional professional development around science teaching for classroom teachers and university supervisors could go a long way to reshaping the classroom experience component of the program so that preservice students see science teaching and learning happening in ways that are congruent with their philosophies of teaching and learning.
The authors argue that the preschool now needs to be involved in the process of thinking about how to meet these changes in preschool.

At the same time, early childhood practitioners have had to address and manage a rather complicated task.
They have to deal with problems on a day-to-day basis in a highly complex practice interacting with children and adults, individuals and groups, families and communities, laypersons and professionals—all pursuing their own and often contradictory interests.

Updated: Aug. 20, 2014