Teaching & Learning

Research: Preschool Teachers Are Uncomfortable with Science, Teach It Rarely

Preschool teachers in the United States are not as comfortable with science as they are literacy, according to researchers at Michigan State University.

The researchers, led by Hope Gerde, an associate professor in Michigan State's department of human development and family studies, found the preschool teachers they surveyed reported higher enjoyment and ability for literacy than for science or math. Nearly all — 99 percent — of those surveyed said they worked with students on literacy education three or four times a week, but only 75 percent said the same about math and a paltry 42 percent about science.

Gerde and her team followed 67 Head Start classrooms with students aged 3–5 years, a time when children are developing knowledge and skills for scientific learning.

"Providing quality early-childhood science education is one way to improve the very low science achievement of US elementary school children," said Gerde in a prepared statement. "However, it seems the preschool teachers in our study were more confident of their ability in literacy than in science — likely creating a gap between children's literacy development and science skills."

Teacher discomfort with science may be a result of poor training, preparation or simply an aversion to science, according to Gerde, or preschool teachers may feel pressure from administrators or policy makers to focus on literacy.

The team also found that teachers with strong science skills and knowledge created quality learning opportunities around science for their students.

"If we are to improve US children's science learning," Gerde said in a prepared statement, "we must provide quality opportunities, in teacher education programs and professional development offerings, for early childhood teachers to develop knowledge and skills in science."

The full paper is available at tandfonline.com.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].