A Mixed-Method Evaluation of Anxiety Antecedents Related to Biology Content Among K-16 Educators

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Grimes, Zachary
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation is comprised of three studies that define and subsequently evaluate different antecedents to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) anxiety in elementary, secondary, and tertiary faculty. The literature review developed a framework of antecedents to anxiety in STEM classrooms or contexts. This was accomplished through a review of anxiety literature in each of the STEM domains, also incorporating statistics. The STEM anxiety framework was then used to develop research questions for the quantitative and qualitative study. Both studies used a cross-sectional survey design, and data for both studies was collected simultaneously, but separated prior to analysis. The quantitative study used a Likert-style survey to gather teacher efficacy data for a list of biology concepts developed by biology content experts with both secondary and tertiary education experience. The comparison of self-efficacy scores across different demographics found that both the teaching context (elementary, secondary, or tertiary) and the approximate number of undergraduate biology courses had significant impacts on self-efficacy scores. Both those teaching in elementary contexts and those who reported <5 undergraduate biology courses exhibited significantly lower self-efficacy scores, followed by tertiary and secondary educators respectively. The qualitative study utilized a personification writing prompt asking the participants to personify their own relationship with biology. This study found that, in terms of code diversity, those in tertiary education had the highest diversity of relationship codes, followed by secondary and elementary educators respectively. This could be seen as indicative of the amount of training leading to more developed relationships. The findings of these studies, together, indicate that there is a need to revisit the curricula of elementary teacher training programs. Elementary educators are responsible introducing students to formal education, and as shown in the pair of empirical studies herein, those that exhibit lower self-efficacy can unintentionally inhibit their students’ progress throughout the entirety of their education.
Anxiety, Biology, STEM, Science education, Teacher education, Educational psychology