PRE-SERVICE SCIENCE AND PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS PERCEPTIONS OF SCIENCE LABORATORY ENVIRONMENT

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1 PRE-SERVICE SCIENCE AND PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS PERCEPTIONS OF SCIENCE LABORATORY ENVIRONMENT Gamze Çetinkaya 1 and Jale Çakıroğlu 1 1 Middle East Technical University Abstract: The associations between students perceptions of science laboratory environments, science achievement, and their attitudes towards science have been examined extensively in science education literature (Wong & Fraser, 1994; Hofstein, & Cohen, 1996; Lee & Fraser, 2001; Özkan, Çakıroğlu, & Tekkaya, 2008); however, there have been limited studies focusing on pre-service teachers (PTs). The purpose of this study was to examine pre-service elementary science teachers' and primary school teachers' perceptions of science laboratory environment and to investigate its relationship with their achievement in science laboratory and attitudes towards science lessons. The differences in PTs perceptions of laboratory environment by their major area were also investigated. Participants of this study were 178 PTs enrolled in science laboratory course in the departments of elementary science education and primary education. Data were collected through Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (Fraser, Giddings, & McRobbie, 1995) and Science Attitude Scale (SAS) (Geban, Ertepınar, Yılmaz, Altın, & Şahbaz, 1994). In order to investigate the relationship between participants perceptions of science laboratory environments, their attitudes toward science lessons and their achievement in science laboratory, simple correlation analysis was used. MANOVA was also used to investigate the differences across departments. The findings indicated that most of the participants have high scores on SLEI subscales except Open- Endedness subscale (M=19.33, SD=3.62). Simple correlation analysis results showed that both achievement and attitude are positively related to Integration subscale of SLEI. Moreover, department has found to be a significant factor differentiating PTs' perceptions of laboratory environment in Student Cohesiveness and Material Environment subscales. Although this difference is statistically significant, there are not any major differences between mean scores of two groups. On the other hand, SAS mean scores of pre-service primary school and elementary science teachers were found to be significantly different. PTs majoring in science education have high positive attitudes toward science compared to preservice primary school teachers. Keywords: Science Laboratory, Pre-service Teachers, Science Education, Learning Environment, Attitude. BACKGROUND, FRAMEWORK, AND PURPOSE Science laboratory has a crucial role in science education as it gives students a chance to embody their theoretical knowledge. In the literature, there have been many studies investigating the relationship between students perceptions of laboratory environments and students outcomes (e.g. Özkan, Çakıroğlu, & Tekkaya, 2008). Previous studies have consistently showed that there is a strong relationship between students laboratory environment perceptions and their outcomes. The possible effects of other student characteristics such as gender, grade level, subject, school type were also investigated with different studies all around the world (e.g. Wong & Fraser, 1994).

2 The purpose of this study was to examine pre-service elementary science teachers and primary school teachers perceptions of science laboratory environment and to investigate its relationship with their achievement in science laboratory and attitudes towards science lessons. In this study, the differences in pre-service teachers (PTs) perceptions of laboratory environment by their major area were also investigated. The following research questions guided the study: 1. Is there a relationship between PTs perceptions of their science laboratory learning environment and their science laboratory achievement? 2. Is there a relationship between PTs perceptions of their science laboratory learning environment and their attitudes toward science lessons? 3. Is there a significant difference in PTs perceptions of their science laboratory learning environment and their attitudes toward science lessons by their departments? RATIONALE The associations between students perceptions of science laboratory environments, science achievement, and their attitudes towards science have been examined extensively in science education literature (Wong & Fraser, 1994; Hofstein, & Cohen, 1996; Lee & Fraser, 2001; Özkan, Çakıroğlu, & Tekkaya, 2008). However, there have been limited studies focusing on pre-service teachers perceptions of science laboratory environments. PTs perceptions of the learning environment can give valuable information to improve the effectiveness of science laboratory in the teacher education programs. The effectiveness in science laboratory is very important for pre-service teachers because they will teach science and conduct laboratory applications in their future schools. METHODS Sample The participants of this study were 178 pre-service teachers enrolled in science laboratory course in the departments of elementary science education and primary education at Sakarya University in Turkey. Of the 178 participants, 89 were 3 th year students majoring in elementary science education (69 female, 20 male students) and 89 were 2 th year students majoring in primary education (72 female, 17 male students). Although the students from different departments attend different science laboratory courses, the course content and objectives are very similar and also both of these two courses are offered by the department of elementary science education. They use the same laboratory for the courses and conduct very similar experiments. The aim of the both courses is to help PTs to gain the ability of designing and applying experiments for science lessons. Instrumentation The data were collected through Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI) and Science Attitude Scale (SAS). Both of the questionnaires were administered at the same time to the participants. The first instrument, the SLEI, used to investigate PTs perceptions of science laboratory environment, was developed and validated by Fraser, Giddings, and McRobbie (1995) and adapted into Turkish by Özkan, Çakıroğlu, and Tekkaya (2008). This questionnaire consists of 35 items and 5 different subscales with 7 items in each subscale (Student Cohesiveness, Open-Endedness, Integration, Rule Clarity, and Material Environment). In the current study, the alpha reliability coefficients of the subscales were found to be range from.60 to.78 with a total scale reliability of.79.

3 The second instrument SAS was used to assess students attitude toward science lessons, and developed by Geban, Ertepınar, Yılmaz, Altın, and Şahbaz (1994). In the current study, the Cronbach alpha coefficient of this 15 item 5-point Likert type scale was found to be.94. Data Analysis In order to investigate the relationship between participants perceptions of science laboratory environments, their attitudes toward science lessons and their achievement in science laboratory, simple correlation analysis was used. For this analysis, PTs course grades are used as science laboratory achievement variable. Moreover, Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was also used to investigate the differences across departments on five different subscales of SLEI and SAS. RESULTS Descriptive Statistics Pre-service teachers perceptions of their laboratory environment were described by their responses to the SLEI in its five subscales; Student Cohesiveness, Open-Endedness, Integration, Rule Clarity, and Material Environment. The results showed that PTs see their science laboratory environment positively, as indicated by mean scores for subscales ranging from 2.78 to 4.04 over 5 (Table 1). The highest mean score of all subscales was for the Student Cohesiveness subscale (M=4,04, SD=.48) suggesting that students perceived great cohesiveness in their laboratory and they were helpful and supportive of each other. The second highest mean score was for the Integration subscale (M=3.96, SD=.40), indicating that students thought their laboratory activities were related to their theoretical courses. The mean score for the Rule Clarity subscale (M=3.94, SD=.54) was also high, implying that rules for laboratory courses and experiments were clear enough and students knew what they were supposed to do or not to do in the laboratory. For the Material Environment subscale the mean value can be considered as moderate (M=3.71, SD=.54). This means materials in the laboratory were found as an adequate by the students. The lowest mean score of all subscales was for the Open-Endedness subscale (M=2.78, SD=.42) indicating that students perceived a close-ended approach for their laboratory activities. Table 1: Mean Scores of Pre-service Teachers on Five Subscales of SLEI Mean SD Student Cohesiveness Open-Endedness Rule Clarity Integration Material Environment Simple Correlations Results Simple correlation analysis results (Table 2) revealed that among five subscales of SLEI only Integration subscale was significantly and positively related to science laboratory achievement and to attitude toward science lessons with small effect size. Correlation coefficients of.10,.30, and.50, are interpreted as small, medium, and large effect size respectively (Green, Salkind, & Akey, 2000).

4 Table 2: Simple correlations with SAS scores and science laboratory achievement Science laboratory achievement Attitude toward science lessons Pearson Correlation Student Cohesiveness Open Endedness Integration Rule Clarity (*) Effect Size Pearson Correlation , (**) Effect Size * Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). Multivariate Analysis of Variance Results Material Environment A one-way between-groups multivariate analysis of variance was performed to investigate the differences across departments on five different subscales of SLEI and SAS. Preliminary assumption testing was conducted to check for normality, linearity, singularity and homogeneity of variance-covariance matrices, with no serious violations noted. MANOVA results comparing pre-service primary school teachers and elementary science teachers revealed that there was a significant difference between them on the combined dependent variables: F(6,171)=29.63, p=.000; Wilks Lambda=.49; partial eta squared=.51. When the results for the dependent variables were considered separately, the differences to reach statistical significance using a Bonferroni adjusted alpha level of.008 were on the Student Cohesiveness subscale, F(1,176)=12.63, p=.000, partial eta squared=0.067; on the Material Environment subscale, F(1,176)=13.16, p=.000, partial eta squared=0.070; and on the attitudes toward science lessons, F(1,176)=125.93, p=.000, partial eta squared= An inspection of the mean scores indicated that on Student Cohesiveness (SC) and Material Environment subscales (ME) pre-service primary school teachers have higher mean scores with small effect size, whereas pre-service elementary science teachers have higher science attitude mean scores with large effect size. Mean scores and % variance explained by department in Student Cohesiveness and Material Environment subscales and Science Attitude Scale are presented in Table 3. Table 3: Mean scores and percentage variance explained by department Pre-service elementary science teachers Pre-service primary school teachers SC ME Attitude Mean Mean % variance explained

5 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS The findings of this study indicated that most of the participants have high scores on SLEI subscales except Open-Endedness subscale (M=19.33, SD=3.62). It can be concluded that although participants see their science laboratory environment positively, they think laboratory activities are close-ended. This finding is consistent with previous studies conducted with elementary and high school students (e.g. Lee & Fraser, 2001). This may be because experiments and their procedures are determined for students, they just follow the given guidelines and neither instructors nor students try to change this system in Turkey (Çakıroğlu, Telli, & Çakıroğlu, 2003). However, an open-ended approach might be more helpful to future teachers to find their own way to teach science and conduct laboratory experiments. Moreover, if pre-service teachers do not receive an open-ended instruction, they cannot be expected to be an innovative teacher in the future. Simple correlation analysis results showed that both science laboratory achievement and attitude toward science lessons are positively related to Integration subscale of SLEI. Students who perceive greater integration between theoretical courses and laboratory applications have more positive attitudes toward science lessons and perform better in science laboratory courses. This finding is consistent with previous studies (e.g. Özkan, Çakıroğlu, & Tekkaya, 2008). Moreover, as the integration between theoretical courses and laboratory applications increases, students chance to embody their theoretical knowledge also increases and then they perform better and gain a more meaningful understanding. In this study, department has found to be a significant factor differentiating students perceptions of laboratory environment in Student Cohesiveness and Material Environment subscales. Although this difference is statistically significant, there are not any major differences between mean scores of two groups. On the other hand, the significant difference between SAS mean scores of pre-service primary school and elementary science teachers is found. PTs majoring in science education have high positive attitudes toward science compared to pre-service primary school teachers. Future research may be conducted to investigate the reasons of differences on attitude towards and achievement in science laboratory courses between primary education students and science education students and its influences in science education. Primary education PTs and science education PTs may be compared in terms of their pedagogical content knowledge level of science laboratory courses. BIBLIOGRAPHY Çakıroğlu, J., Telli S., & Çakıroğlu, E. (2003). Turkish high school students perceptions of learning environment in biology classrooms and their attitudes toward biology. Paper presented at the annual meeting of American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Fraser, B. J., Giddings, G. J., & McRobbie, C. J. (1995). Evolution, validation and application of a personal form of an instrument for assessing science laboratory classroom environments. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32, Geban, O., Ertepınar, H., Yılmaz, G., Altın, A., & Şahbaz, F. (1994, September). The effect of computer assisted instruction on students science achievement and attitude. Paper presented in National Science Education Symposium, Izmir, Turkey. Green, S. B., Salkind, N. J., & Akey, T. M. (2000). Using SPSS for windows: Analyzing and understanding data. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

6 Hofstein, A., & Cohen, I. (1996). The laboratory environment of high school students in chemistry and biology laboratories. Research in Science and Technological Education, 14, Lee, S. S. U., & Fraser, B.J. (2001, March). High School Science Classroom Learning Environment in Korea. Paper presented in the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, St. Louis, MO. Özkan, S., Çakıroğlu, J., & Tekkaya, C. (2008). Students perceptions of the science laboratory learning environment. In D. W. Sunal, E. L. Wright, & C. Sudenberg (Eds.), The Impact of the Laboratory and Technology on K-16 Science Learning (pp ). Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing, Inc. Wong, A., & Fraser, B. J. (1994, April). Science laboratory classrooms environments and students attitudes in chemistry classes in Singapore. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY.

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