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D. Tsybulsky1, A. Oz2

1Tel Aviv University and Mofet Intitute (ISRAEL)
2Kibbutzim College of Education (ISRAEL)
Numerous reports and publications from federal agencies and organizations call for the urgent need to improve science education. In their publications and recommendations, they have emphasized the need to examine and explore the teaching practices and student-learning processes that require the use of active cooperative and collaborative learning in science class. These goals can be accomplished by adopting active-learning teaching methods such as the various forms of small-group learning methods (e.g., collaborative learning, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, peer learning, or team-based learning).

Studies have shown that pre-service teachers avoid using the methods mentioned above, in teaching practices during training and in the first years of work. Small-group learning is perceived as time-consuming, creates difficulties in organizing and fear of loss of control over the process of classroom teaching.

The aim of our study was to investigate whether and how the experience of teaching using the Project-Based Learning (PBL) method (at traning) affects the attitudes of pre-service teachers towards teaching in small-group learning pedagogies.

This research is rooted in qualitative multiple case study methodology. The specific phenomenon the study explored was the views, issues, challenges, beliefs and attitudinal changes of the science pre-service teachers that have occurred during and after their teaching expirience on PBL.

The study involved 17 Israeli pre-service teachers in their second training year, from an educational college in the middle of the country. During the 1-st semester the teachers were asked to lead the PBL process in primary school classes, and during the second semester the teachers were asked to teach the regular science lessons by using different teaching methods (according to their choice).

Data collection methods were:
(1). Reflections which teachers wrote during and after the teaching experience of the PBL method. Teachers were asked to write an open reflection on the teaching process that they had experienced.
(2). Lesson plans which teachers had made after the PBL experience.

The data were analyzed by using the constructivistic (ethnographic) method of qualitative research based on grounded theory. Inter-rater reliability of 94% was obtained by analyzing the data by two coders.

12 of the students reported small-groups learning as one of the important elements in the process of teaching which took place in the classroom; 7 of them which stated explicitly that they will adopt this practice continued their work and "one of the things that I took away is not afraid of small-group learning methods".

Review of lessons plans which teachers developed found that 11 of the 17 students were running a teaching unit based on small-group learning pedagogies in at least half of the classes, without being asked.

These findings indicate that the PBL method, which was experienced during the teacher training, has a high potential to improve the teachers’ attitudes towards teaching methods of learning in small groups and to implement these methods in their teaching practices. This work should therefore be of interest to INTED members who are doing active research on teacher training, pre-service teacher experiences, and experiences in STEM Education.