Date of this Version
The National Science Education Standards [National Research Council (NRC), 1996] encourage science learning as an active, inquiry-based activity that children do rather than something that is done to them. Following the explicit goal of the standards to establish scientific literacy for all, students are expected to participate in hands-on and minds-on learning experiences that reflect the intellectual traditions of contemporary science. Standards-based lessons involve children in inquiry-oriented investigations, help them to establish connections, encourage questions, promote problem solving, and support group discussions. In the words of the standards, "Emphasizing active science learning means shifting away from teachers presenting information and covering science topics. The perceived need to include all the topics, vocabulary, and information in the textbooks is in direct conflict with the central goal of having students learn scientific knowledge with understanding" (p. 20). Today’s preservice teacher experienced yesterday’s K-12 science learning in the form of text-based, didactic lessons presenting science as an inert body of knowledge (Tobin, Briscoe & Holman, 1990). No wonder science methods courses have done little to change the way science is taught in the elementary classroom (Raizen & Michelsohn, 1994). Likely, the long history of traditional science learning experiences (in elementary school, high school, and college) powerfully impact the way in which elementary teachers understand the nature of science and the way in which science should be taught. This research begins with a concern for these experiences and resulting mental models and beliefs preservice teachers bring to science methods classes.
The developmental research reported in this study is connected to ongoing research regarding student perceptions of scientists, an extension of earlier research examining the perceptions and mental images students held about scientists. Student perceptions of scientists were first measured by Chambers (1983). The original Draw-A-Scientist-Test (DAST), patterned after Goodenough’s Draw-A-Man-Test (1926), was developed as an open-ended projective test to provide information regarding children’s perceptions of scientists. Pictures were assessed according to seven, basic standard image elements. Chambers (1983) and Schibeci and Sorensen (1983) discovered that as children progressed through successively higher grade levels their images of scientists become more stereotypical, and that by fifth grade, the “image” had fully emerged. Finson, Beaver, and Crammond (1995) developed the Draw-A-Scientist-Test Checklist (DAST-C) to further consider alternative images and facilitate ease of assessment. DAST-C ANOVA pre- and post-course data indicated a significant shift (p < .0001) from stereotypical images to more realistic images of the variety of persons involved in science as students increased contact with real-life scientists. For the research in this study, the DASTC was further modified to create the Draw-A-Science-Teacher-Test Checklist (DASTT-C). This test was expected to illuminate the knowledge and beliefs preservice elementary teachers construct prior to coursework in elementary science teaching methods.