International studies on science education such as TIMSS and PISA have revealed disparities in students’ achievement in science learning across various nations. These findings have naturally prompted the nations involved to seek possible causes to explain such disparities. While it is certainly inappropriate to pinpoint any single factor in light of the complexity of such causal relations, it will be constructive for different nations to examine in greater detail their specific educational context and compare it with others in order to gain insights for improvement. Teacher education is an important part of the educational context that has not attracted as much attention as it deserves in international studies. This study compares the perceptions of pre-service elementary teachers with respect to inquiry-based science learning and teaching between Hong Kong and the U.S., and the relative impacts of the science teaching methods course in the two localities on teachers’ perceptions. Teachers’ perceptions across the two localities were compared at the beginning and at the end of the methods course by means of a 26-item questionnaire with open-ended questions and interviews. Analysis of the data collected was based upon four factors obtained previously by exploratory factor analysis. These factors are confidence in teaching science concepts, understanding of inquiry-based science learning, intention to adopt open-ended inquiry approaches, and competence in facilitating inquiry-based science learning. Independent t-tests and paired t-tests showed that teachers of the two localities differed significantly in most of the factors in both the pre-test and post-test, and the change in teachers’ perceptions after the methods course was much more marked amongst US teachers than amongst their Hong Kong counterparts. These findings have implications for the design of science methods courses in both localities.
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2013|