Mixed method study of preservice teachers` basic scientific literacy: Level, experiences and enactment

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr Sadia Bhutta


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Scientific literacy is one of the main goals of science education. This goal is well-established in the science curriculum of the four-year BEd programme in Pakistan, as teachers’ own scientific literacy is considered as a pre-requisite for attaining this goal at the school level.
This study aimed to explore the current level of Basic Scientific Literacy (BSL) among preservice teachers, including related factors, their experiences of developing scientific literacy during four-year BEd programme, and the enactment of their ability in a real classroom setting during practicum. Miller’s multi-dimensional model of BSL was used as a framework for the mixed-method study which was undertaken in the province of Sindh, in two phases.
In the first phase, a cross-sectional survey of 669 preservice teachers, enroled in public teacher education institutions in selected cities, was conducted using the adapted version of Test of Basic Scientific Literacy (TBSL). TBSL-Revised, an 86-item tool (KR-20 = 0.876), was used to identify the level of BSL of preservice teachers, based on the non-compensatory and compensatory performance standards established by the authors of the original TBSL. The survey results indicated 22.9% and 52.3% preservice teachers qualified for the mastery group, based on the non-compensatory and compensatory standards, respectively. Four multivariate models were developed for overall BSL, Science Content Knowledge (SCK), Nature of Science (NoS), and Science, Technology, and Society (STS). The models for overall BSL and SCK revealed that, regardless of gender, preservice teachers enroled in public universities and in year IV of BEd programme performed better than their counterparts in teacher education colleges, and those who were enroled in year I of the programme. The models developed for NoS and STS presented similar pattern, except for the year of study. Interestingly, preservice teachers who were in year III performed better than year I in NoS and STS; whereas, the performance declined in year IV. The models showed 9% variance in the overall BSL scores, 11% in SCK, 3% in NoS, and 2% in STS.
For the second phase, eight preservice teachers studying in fourth-year of BEd were recruited through the ‘maximum variation’ technique of purposive sampling. Two in-depth individual interviews and three observations of teaching practicum were conducted with these eight participants. The findings unveiled participants’ voice in favour of developing scientific literacy; however, the programme hardly provided opportunities to inculcate conceptual understanding of science and the related pedagogical skills. In this regard, some hindering factors that were identified included: theoretical and fragmented approach in implementing the curriculum, lack of institutional collaborations, non-supportive policies, dearth of resources, minimal opportunities to experience science-in-context, and inadequate mentoring during the practicum. Though limited, some good practices were observed at the individual (e.g., activity-based teaching, students-teacher interaction) and institutional (e.g., accountability for quality, opportunities for informal learning) levels, to enhance the quality of science teacher learning in the context.
The findings of the study have implications for policy (e.g., induction, recruitment) and educational practices (e.g., continuous professional development for teacher educators, collaborative platforms for teacher learning) to support scientific literacy through initial teacher education programmes. Furthermore, the empirical framework developed through this study can also be used by other researchers for large-scale studies.

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