Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Olga S. Jarrett, Ph. D - Chair

Second Advisor

Lynn Hart, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lisa Martin-Hansen, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Brian Williams, Ph.D.


Inquiry-based science instruction is a major goal of science education reform. However, there is little research examining how preservice elementary teachers might be motivated to teach through inquiry. This quantitative study was designed to examine the role of background experiences and an inquiry science methods course on interest in science and interest in teaching science. The course included many activities and assignments at varying levels of inquiry, designed to teach content and inquiry methods and to model effective teaching. The study involved analyses of surveys completed by students in the course on their experiences with science before, during, and at the end of the course. The following questions guided the design of this study and analysis of the data: 1.What science background experiences (school, home, and informal education) do participants have and how do those experiences affect initial interest in science? 2.Among the hands-on activities in the methods course, is there a relationship between level of inquiry of the activity and the motivational quality (interesting, fun, and learning) of the activity? 3.Does the course affect participants’ interest and attitude toward science? 4.What aspects of the course contribute to participants’ interest in teaching science and choice to teach science? Descriptive and inferential analysis of a background survey revealed that participants with high and low initial interest in science differed significantly on remembering about elementary school science and involvement in science related activities in childhood/youth. Analysis of daily ratings of each hands-on activity on motivational qualities (fun, interest, and learning) indicated that there were significant differences in motivational quality of the activities by level of inquiry with higher levels of inquiry rated more positively. Pre/post surveys indicated that participants increased in interest in science and a number of variables reflecting more positive feelings about science and science teaching. Regression analysis found that the best predictors for interest in teaching science were experiencing fun activities in the science methods course followed by the interest participants brought to the course. This study highlights the motivational aspects of the methods course in developing interest in science and interest in teaching science.