Prospective Primary Teachers’ Self-efficacy and Emotions in Science Teaching

May. 10, 2013

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 36, No. 2, 200–217, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study had two objectives:
(1) to analyse the relationship between prospective primary teachers’ recall of emotions in school science classes as pupils themselves and their expectations of emotion as future teachers and
(2) to analyse the relationship between their self-efficacy and the emotions that they expect to experience as future science teachers, differentiating between the content of the ‘nature sciences’ (biology and geology) and that of the ‘hard sciences’ (physics and chemistry).

The study instrument was a questionnaire completed by 188 prospective primary school teachers in their initial education at the University of Extremadura during the academic year 2009/2010.


The results show that prospective primary teachers have completely different emotions about their future teaching according to whether the content is related to the nature sciences or the hard sciences.
Positive emotions predominate for the nature sciences, while for the hard sciences the predominant emotions are all negative.
Negative emotions towards the teaching and learning of physics and chemistry constitute a serious problem for the educational system.

Prospective primary school teachers generally have positive beliefs in their self-efficacy for their future teaching, feeling themselves competent to teach science content and to guide their pupils in practical activities, regardless of the pupils’ ages.
It has to be noted, however, that about 25% of the prospective teachers feel insecure when teaching science content and an even greater percentage feel anxiety when having to teach scientific content of some complexity.
The present results indicate that beliefs in their self-efficacy have hardly any influence on their (mostly positive) emotions about their future teaching of the nature sciences.
Their emotions towards their future teaching of the hard sciences, however, are significantly related to self-efficacy.
In the present study, prospective teachers who have high self-efficacy also describe significantly more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions towards physics or chemistry.

In addition, prospective teachers who have low self-efficacy foresee themselves as experiencing more negative emotions in teaching the same content.
This finding is encouraging and points to the interest in following a line of research aimed at improving self-efficacy and the emotions about physics or chemistry during initial teacher education.


The authors believe that the study of emotions is important in the context of initial teacher education.
It can help prospective teachers, on the one hand, to become aware of their own possible emotional vulnerability, of their time at school and of how emotions affect teaching and learning the different science subjects and, on the other, to develop the capacity to self-regulate those emotions.

It is necessary to develop programmes of intervention and emotional support for prospective teachers in order for them to gain in emotional competence – an aspect on which we are currently working.
The results of this study also suggest the need to include in teacher education programmes strategies for the improvement of self-efficacy, especially in subjects like physics or chemistry, which show themselves to cause prospective primary teachers major cognitive and emotional difficulties.

Updated: Mar. 01, 2016