Dr. Department of Elementary Education, Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey.
Problem Statement: Research studies indicate that teachers with negative attitudes toward science tend to use didactic approaches rather than approaches based on students’ active participation. However, the reviews of the national academic literature in Turkey located a few research studies on the relationship between playful science experiences and attitudes toward science. This study examines the following components of attitudes: a) enjoyment of learning science and b) interest and motivation toward science, the nature of the classroom environment, and the content of group work.
Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study was to determine preservice science teachers’ attitudes on the roles of playfulness, content of group work, and the class atmosphere after taking a two-semester required science methods course.
Methods: Data were collected by a survey and an open-ended question to examine the role of playful science experiences and positive classroom atmosphere on preservice science teachers’ attitudes toward learning and teaching science. Forty-two preservice teachers participated in the study, 18 males and 24 females with an average age of 20. The course was designed to model inquiry-based science teaching, and it focused on discrepant event demonstrations and fun and playful hands-on activities for preservice teachers.
Findings and Results: Preservice teachers’ high mean ratings and significant correlations were found on methods course variables. The best predictors of developing a positive attitude toward science learning and teaching were playful activities in the methods course made learning easier and playful activities relieved boredom. These variables explained 43% of the variance. The most frequently mentioned playful/fun activities were making a terrarium, experimenting with mirrors and lenses, examining the effect of air pressure with a balloon in a flask, making a hydrogen balloon, and conducting a science fair project. Preservice teachers’ evaluation of the course indicated that interesting hands-on activities, creating concepts real and visible, including novelty activities, and requiring projects that helped with learning to collect and analyze data were the common characteristics of the fun science experiences in the methods course.
Conclusions and Recommendations: This study focuses on the motivational aspects of the science laboratory course in developing positive attitudes toward teaching science through play. Discrepant event demonstrations and exploratory hands-on learning activities that are fun may serve both to capture the interest of the teachers and to model how they can make science activities more playful and engaging for children.
Key Words: Playful science teaching and learning, attitude, positive social environment.