James Deehan

Proposed title

An exploration of the factors impacting primary teachers' science teaching efficacy beliefs and science teaching practices as they transition from university into their teaching careers.


Science education in Australia, and indeed globally, is in a state of crisis. The importance of scientific inquiry and science knowledge cannot be overstated as future generations will be faced with unique challenges for which there will be no simple solutions. The remnants of the industrial, production line style of education can no longer continue without serious change. Declines in science attitudes and content knowledge are becoming more evident with each passing generation. The science achievement of primary students is on a global decline, which appears to be related to their negative attitudes toward school science. The poor attitudes and low science competence of primary school teachers are compounding these issues. Many primary teachers choose to cope with their own negative science attitudes by employing transmissive pedagogies or science teaching avoidance.

The author recognises that the systemic problems with primary science education are complex, and deeply ingrained within our society, meaning they cannot be addressed by a single doctoral dissertation. Primary science education programs at universities continue to report positive change within pre-service primary teachers, and yet the aforementioned science issues continue to grow, seemingly unimpeded. Therefore, a major focus within this proposed research project is the impact of tertiary science education on primary teachers beyond the tertiary context. The breadth, depth and complexity of this research area are expressed in the following focus questions:

  • What science courses are being delivered to pre-service primary teachers? (breadth)
  • How do tertiary science education programs impact the science teaching efficacy beliefs and science teaching practices of primary teachers? (depth)
  • Which of the other identified variables contribute to the potential decline in science teaching efficacy and attitudes as pre-service primary teachers transition to practising professionals? (complexity)

The proposed doctoral dissertation is intended to be achieved through the publication of nine research papers. It is hypothesized that there will be a positive correlation between the number of innovative practices used within tertiary science subjects and the science teaching efficacy beliefs of graduate teachers. Additionally, the researcher believes that there will be significant variance in the number of and types innovative practices used within the science subjects offered at Australian universities. This research should contribute by determining the most effective educational designs for use as potential models in the teaching of science subjects. Also, the exploration of extraneous variables should allow for preventative measures to be developed to ensure the positive influences of pre-service science education to extend to in-service teaching.

Why did I choose CSU?

I began studying for a Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree at CSU, Bathurst in 2009. During the second year of my studies I completed a science subject that influenced my science teaching capacities and general views of education profoundly. Due to a combination of my experiences as a student within that science subject and my professional curiosity, I enrolled in the honours stream in 2011 and graduated with a first class honours degree in 2013. I enrolled in the PhD program at CSU.


Fitzgerald, M., McKinnon, D. H., Danaia, L., & Deehan, J. (2014). A large scale inquiry based astronomy intervention project: Impact on high school students' performance and perceptions in science. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Deehan, M. (2013). How do I measure up? A longitudinal investigation of a cohort of Australian pre-service primary teachers' science experiences. Unpublished Honours Thesis.

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