Pre-service primary teachers’ attitudinal profiles towards Science learning and their outcomes in an introductory Science unit

Year: 2019

Author: Pino-Pasternak, Deborah, Volet, Simone

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on associations between primary education pre-service teachers’ attitudinal profiles towards science learning (n=108, 86% female) and their learning outcomes in an introductory science unit. It expands on previous work on this cohort that identified four attitudinal profiles at the start of the unit (i.e. Optimal, Promising, Vulnerable, and Uncommitted) and qualitative transitions in these profiles from the beginning to the end of the unit (i.e. Stays favourable, Stays unfavourable, Migrates to favourable, and Migrates to unfavourable). Initial profiles and transitions were calculated using clustering methods (Quinnell, May and Peat, 2012) based on survey results conducted at the start and at the end of the science unit (see Pino-Pasternak & Volet, 2018).

The present study addressed two research questions: RQ1. To what extent do students’ initial attitudinal profiles lead to different learning outcomes in an introductory science unit? RQ2. To what extent do transitions towards more and less favourable attitudinal profiles lead to different learning outcomes for the students? Two one-way multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) were conducted to test differences in learning outcomes by initial attitudinal profile (RQ1) and by transition patterns (RQ2). The following assessment components of the unit were considered as dependent variables: Total assignment mark (70% of the final mark); Final exam mark (30%), and Number of quizzes completed (n=5), the latter considered an indicator of student commitment to the unit.

The results indicated that students who started the unit with optimal and promising profiles achieved better outcomes and engaged more with unit assessment than those who started the unit with uncommitted or vulnerable profiles. In reference to RQ2, the results showed that profile stability resulted in more noticeable differences in students’ outcomes than profile migration. More specifically, starting and staying in a favourable profile led to the most successful outcomes, with the opposite being the case for students who started and stayed in the least favourable profiles. These findings suggest the importance of the early identification of students whose attitudes towards science may show vulnerability or lack of commitment so targeted interventions and suitable adaptations to curriculum and classroom environment can be put in place.