D. Letloenyane1, L. Jita2

1Central University of Technology (SOUTH AFRICA)
2University of the Free State (SOUTH AFRICA)
Beliefs are an important facet of pre-service teacher competence and numerous scholars consider beliefs to be one of the most important outcomes of teacher education. While there is a fair amount of literature on how beliefs influence pre-service teachers’ actions in the classroom, the manner in which aspects of teacher education affect pre-service science teacher beliefs is not thoroughly captured. This paper explores how opportunities to learn (OTL) afforded to pre-service science teachers in teacher education programmes affect their beliefs bundles. Specifically, the paper seeks to determine OTL that significantly predict pre-service science teachers’ beliefs.

This quantitative study used a questionnaire which consists a beliefs and an opportunity to learn sections to collect data from 112 final year pre-service science teachers from four universities in South Africa. Pre-service science teachers’ beliefs were divided into five categories which were beliefs about (i) the nature of science, (ii) learning science, (iii) science achievement, (iv) preparedness for teaching and (v) programme effectiveness. OTL that were considered include OTL school-level science, OTL tertiary-level physics and chemistry, OTL science education/pedagogy, OTL through reflection, OTL through teaching practice and OTL in a coherent programme. The self-administered questionnaire was validated using various methods including Cronbach alpha’s (α > 0.66). Correlations and stepwise regression analysis were used to determine relationships between OTL and pre-service science teacher beliefs.

The findings show that belief bundles are significantly predicted by various sets of OTL but there are specific OTL that show pervasive effects across a number of beliefs bundles. For example, OTL through teaching practice is a predictor of all the belief bundles except beliefs about science achievement. The finding suggests that coherence between methods mentor teachers use in schools and those pre-service teachers are exposed to in their teacher education programmes is an important factor. OTL in a coherent programme is also a significant predictor of beliefs about preparedness for teaching (β = 0.26) and beliefs about programme effectiveness (β = 0.31). This finding suggests that clear links between courses in a programme and the sequencing of the courses are important aspects of teacher education. OTL science pedagogy also shows some effects with beliefs about preparedness for teaching (β = 0. 36) and beliefs about programme effectiveness (β = 0.31). This finding suggests developing learning material in line with students’ experiences and interests are important factors with regards to some pre-service teacher beliefs. The study suggests significant predictors of pre-service science teacher beliefs bundles which may assist teacher educators and policy makers to design and develop teaching and learning experiences that affect beliefs in a positive manner.