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Science Teachers’ Perceptions and Self-Efficacy Beliefs Related to Integrated Science Education

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To understand how integrated science education (ISE) can be transferred into successful classroom practices, it is important to understand teachers’ perceptions and self-efficacy. The focus of this study is twofold: (1) to understand how teachers perceive ISE and (2) to assess if science teachers’ perceptions of and experiences with integrated education correlate with their views on self-efficacy in relation to ISE. Ninety-five Finnish science teachers participated in an online survey study. A mixed method approach via exploratory factor analysis and data-driven content analysis was used. Self-efficacy emerged as a key factor explaining teachers’ perceptions of and their lack of confidence in implementing ISE as well as their need for support. In addition, teachers regarded ISE as a relevant teaching method, but challenging to implement, and teachers primarily applied integrated approaches irregularly and seldom. Furthermore, teachers’ experiences with integrated activities and collaboration correlated with their views on integrated education and self-efficacy. These findings indicate teachers need support to better understand and implement ISE.
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education
sciences
Article
Science Teachers’ Perceptions and Self-Efficacy Beliefs Related
to Integrated Science Education
Outi Haatainen * , Jaakko Turkka and Maija Aksela


Citation: Haatainen, O.; Turkka, J.;
Aksela, M. Science Teachers’
Perceptions and Self-Efficacy Beliefs
Related to Integrated Science
Education. Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272.
https://doi.org/10.3390/
educsci11060272
Academic Editors: Kirsi Tirri and
James Albright
Received: 5 May 2021
Accepted: 26 May 2021
Published: 31 May 2021
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Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
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Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
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4.0/).
Unit of Chemistry Teacher Education, Department of Chemistry, University of Helsinki, 00100 Helsinki, Finland;
jaakko.turkka@helsinki.fi (J.T.); maija.aksela@helsinki.fi (M.A.)
*Correspondence: outi.haatainen@helsinki.fi
Abstract:
To understand how integrated science education (ISE) can be transferred into successful
classroom practices, it is important to understand teachers’ perceptions and self-efficacy. The focus
of this study is twofold: (1) to understand how teachers perceive ISE and (2) to assess if science
teachers’ perceptions of and experiences with integrated education correlate with their views on
self-efficacy in relation to ISE. Ninety-five Finnish science teachers participated in an online survey
study. A mixed method approach via exploratory factor analysis and data-driven content analysis
was used. Self-efficacy emerged as a key factor explaining teachers’ perceptions of and their lack of
confidence in implementing ISE as well as their need for support. In addition, teachers regarded
ISE as a relevant teaching method, but challenging to implement, and teachers primarily applied
integrated approaches irregularly and seldom. Furthermore, teachers’ experiences with integrated
activities and collaboration correlated with their views on integrated education and self-efficacy.
These findings indicate teachers need support to better understand and implement ISE.
Keywords:
integrated science education; interdisciplinary education; self-efficacy; teachers’ percep-
tions; teacher training
1. Introduction
Science teachers have a pivotal role in integrating new research and science education
reforms into classroom practices. Their beliefs and perceptions about integrated science
education (ISE) should be considered as the change agent in such situations [
1
6
]. ISE is an
effort to integrate science curriculum contents into a meaningful whole by a constructive
and context-based approach that crosses subject boundaries and links learning to the real
world [
7
,
8
]. It is a current issue of focus among researchers due to the many promises
it offers, such as giving pupils a more coherent understanding of complex everyday life
phenomena, increasing conceptual understanding, developing students’ 21st-century skills
(e.g., critical thinking and problem-solving skills) and increasing students’ interest in
school and science subjects [
7
,
9
14
]. Due to the possibilities, recent policy reforms [
15
,
16
]
across the globe tend to emphasise the need for more integrated approaches to science
education [7,17].
Implementing more integrated approaches to science education, especially approaches
that push beyond traditional science subjects, presents teachers with multiple barriers to
overcome. The challenges include, for example, pedagogical, curriculum and structural
challenges; concerns about students and assessment; a lack of teacher support [
5
,
18
,
19
]; as
well as challenges related to the broad range of ways of defining and implementing integra-
tion [
7
,
20
22
], for example as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
education [17] or Science, Technology, Society, and Environment (STSE) education [23].
In a scenario involving challenging educational reforms, teachers’ self-efficacy and
their perceptions are likely to become important aspects of everyday science teaching
practice [
24
,
25
], which can potentially explain some of the phenomena observed in science
education associated with teachers’ resistance to reforms [
26
,
27
]. One resulting problem is
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11060272 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/education
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 2 of 20
providing teachers with a new curriculum without addressing the underlying educational
belief systems, which are dependent on various factors, including prior experiences as well
as self-efficacy, and which can lead to little meaningful change [2729].
Tschannen-Moran and Hoy [
25
] have defined teachers’ self-efficacy as a future-
oriented belief about the level of competence a person expects he/she will display in
a given educational situation. Such beliefs influence the courses of action teachers choose
to take, their level of effort, their perseverance in the face of obstacles and what they
ultimately accomplish [
30
]. As self-efficacy beliefs are context-related and dependent on
perceptions of the desired outcomes [
30
], it follows that teachers’ perceptions of ISE and
their experience with implementing an integration approach influence their self-efficacy
belief in ISE. However, science teachers’ perceptions regarding integration and the need
for integration vary [
5
,
31
,
32
], and research evidence on science teachers’ self-efficacy for
ISE is not comprehensive.
This mixed method research project began with a focus on science teachers’ percep-
tions of ISE, but the strong emphasis on self-efficacy encouraged researchers to explore it as
a research question in its own right, one with links to teachers’ experiences and perceptions
of ISE. Three research questions were asked:
How do science teachers perceive ISE?
How do science teachers perceive their self-efficacy in relation to ISE?
Do science teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs about ISE correlate with their experiences
with and perceptions of ISE?
The data for this survey were collected at a time when integrated education policies
were first being introduced to Finnish educational systems, thus it offers insights on a
situation of lower self-efficacy related to challenging curriculum reforms for both primary
and secondary school science teachers.
1.1. Integrated Science Education in Finnish Education System
For the first time, the national curriculum in Finland dictates primary and lower
secondary schools to organise yearly a multidisciplinary learning module. The schools are
obligated to plan and implement these ‘tools for integrating learning and for increasing
the dialogue between different subjects’ in cooperation between different subjects and to
involve pupils in their planning [
15
]. Furthermore, integrated elements are impeded in the
learning goals of individual subjects.
The Finnish curriculum offers a broad definition of integrated education that empha-
sises, among other things, the development of the whole person (social, affective, cognitive),
the integrity of subject matter knowledge and the use of interdisciplinary teaching [
15
].
It is closely linked to context-based education [
33
], as it aims to link subject matter with
relevant contexts from students’ everyday lives and society. Furthermore, the curricu-
lum has similar principles guiding it as the framework for K-12 science education [
16
],
but with one distinction: in Finland, instead of cross-cutting concepts, the emphasis is
on crosscutting skills, called transversal competencies, which can be achieved through
integrated education.
The science curriculum is organised and taught as separate subjects in Finland from
lower secondary school (7th grade) onwards. The National Core Curriculum provides
a common direction and objectives for school education, but teachers have pedagogical
autonomy. They can decide themselves the methods of teaching as well as textbooks and
materials [
34
]. Due to the pedagogical autonomy of Finnish teachers, their perceptions of
ISE can have a considerable effect on the integrated practices.
2. Theoretical Background
The main aspects of integrated education are drawn from Dewey’s [
35
,
36
] concepts
of school as a society in miniature, where learning is student-centred and based on real
life and authentic activities and the aim is to teach skills and provide knowledge relevant
to the learners as individuals and members of society. However, the current discourse
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 3 of 20
on integrated education is a contested one, with various typologies and terms that are
sometimes used interchangeably [7,14,22,37].
The forms of integration can be defined by the degree of transfer or connection being
made between contents or disciplines. Transfer of learning can be described as the ability
to apply what one has learned in one situation to a different situation [
38
,
39
]; therefore,
it can be seen as the main goal of integrated education, which aspires to teach the skills
and knowledge needed in real life. Four terms widely used to describe integrated ap-
proaches, ranging from least to greatest level of integration, include integration within
the subject, multidisciplinary approaches, interdisciplinary approaches and transdisci-
plinary approaches.
Integration within the subject focuses on the integrity of subject matter knowledge [
40
].
Multidisciplinary approaches juxtapose disciplines, adding information and methods
from other disciplines [
21
,
22
], while still retaining the elements of each discipline and
thereby keeping them somewhat separate. Choi and Pak [
41
] define multidisciplinary
teaching as drawing on knowledge from different disciplines while still maintaining
the boundaries between them. A similar concept is correlated curricula [
20
] and
Hurley’s [40] notion of sequenced and parallel integration.
Interdisciplinary approaches go further and are characterised by interacting with,
blending and linking different disciplines [
21
,
22
]. Lederman and Niess [
42
] define
interdisciplinary education as a blending of different subjects by making connections
between them, but still retaining the subjects as identifiable entities. Choi and Pak [
41
]
push the idea of transfer further by stating that interdisciplinarity analyses, synthe-
sises and harmonises the links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent
whole. Related terms used by different authors include Dillon’s [
43
] pedagogy of
connections [
43
], shared curricula by Applebee et al. [
20
] and Hurley’s [
40
] partial and
enhanced integration [40].
The greatest degree of integrative restructuring is associated with transdisciplinary
approaches [
21
], which integrate the natural, social and health sciences in a humanities
context and allow them to transcend their traditional boundaries [
41
]. This can
go as far as breaking down traditional disciplinary boundaries and reconstructing
curricula based on cross-cutting concepts. The central idea is also included in the terms
reconstructed curricula by Applebee et al. [20] or Beane’s [8] curriculum integration.
Science integration has traditionally meant integration having to do with mathemat-
ics, engineering and/or technology, such as STS (science–technology–society) or STEM
(science–technology–engineering–mathematics) education [
7
,
9
]. During the past decade,
increasing interest has been shown in taking a broader approach to science integration,
for example, a move to STEAM education by including art in STEM [
14
,
17
]. Indeed, some
evidence supports the inclusion of artistic processes in science as they can promote students’
conceptual understanding, attitude towards science, involvement in science learning [
12
]
and enable a more realistic transdisciplinary learning experience [
44
]. However, an agreed
understanding about the nature and definition of STEM does not exist [
17
,
45
], evidence
on learning outcomes in STEAM education are lacking [46], and science teachers struggle
with the use of these integrative methods [18,32,45].
2.1. Teachers’ Perceptions and Beliefs about ISE
Research findings indicate a strong relationship between teachers’ educational beliefs,
perceptions and teaching practices [
28
,
29
]. For example, teachers’ attitude towards reforms
or their beliefs about the necessity of reforms is amongst the strongest predictors of the
extent to which such reforms would be implemented in the classroom [
27
,
45
,
47
]. However,
even when a teacher holds a constructivist and inquiry-driven belief in science teaching,
oftentimes those beliefs do not translate into correlated practices [
28
]. Pajares [
29
] described
teachers’ educational belief system as composed of various educational beliefs connected
to one another, and it is according to these connections that beliefs are prioritized and
have context-specific effects. Therefore, having conflicting educational beliefs, such as
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 4 of 20
subject matter beliefs and self-efficacy, can constrain teachers from implementing even
positively valued reforms [
28
,
48
]. In this study, we focus on the connection between
teachers’ experiences of ISE, their perceptions of implementing ISE and their self-efficacy
beliefs in relation to ISE.
Teachers’ Perceptions of Implementing ISE
Teachers seem to value ISE [
5
,
7
]; however, their perceptions on the effectiveness of
integrated approaches are mixed [
7
]. Studies have determined several barriers reported
by teachers implementing integrated approaches to science education [
5
,
18
,
19
,
24
,
31
,
49
].
For example, evidence suggests that teachers who perceive more time constraints use
fewer inquiry-based strategies [
7
,
49
], whereas, contrastingly, teachers who perceive less
pressure at work are more likely to implement student-centred approaches [
50
]. The
challenges to integration include scheduling restraints, which make it difficult for teachers
to work together or integrate their teaching [
5
,
19
]. Furthermore, asking teachers to teach
another subject may create new knowledge gaps and challenges for teachers, exposing
holes in their own understanding of subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge
and interdisciplinary issues [
19
]. According to Margot and Kettler [
5
], teachers’ prior
experiences with integration affect their perceptions and willingness to implement ISE.
Therefore, challenging experiences with ISE may hinder teachers from implementing it in
the future.
2.2. Teachers’ Self-Efficacy in Relation to ISE
Bandura [
30
] defines perceived self-efficacy as belief in one’s capabilities to organise
and execute the courses of action required to produce certain educational attainments [
30
].
Science teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs affect their general orientation toward science educa-
tion as well as their behaviour in the classroom [
25
,
29
,
30
]. Teachers with higher perceptions
of self-efficacy are more likely to perceive challenges associated with a specific teaching
task, such as ISE, as surmountable, and therefore, they remain more committed to continue
executing the task [
25
,
30
]. High-efficacy science teachers include students’ problem-solving
and logical thinking skills in a real-life context, they depend less on curriculum guidelines,
they use themes to integrate science into other subjects and they emphasise hands-on
science experiences [
51
]. Teachers with lower efficacy favour a custodial orientation that
takes a pessimistic view of student motivation, emphasises control of classroom behaviour
through strict regulations and relies on extrinsic inducements and negative sanctions to
motivate students to study [30,51].
Teachers’ self-efficacy is a context-specific judgment [30]. Therefore, science teachers’
self-efficacy beliefs can vary from one integrated teaching situation to another. More re-
search is needed to better understand teachers’ self-efficacy for ISE. Bandura [
30
] identified
mastery experiences as one of the main sources of self-efficacy, along with vicarious experi-
ences, verbal persuasion and emotional and physiological states. Most teachers have little
experience with integrated approaches to science education, especially beyond science
subjects [
7
,
31
]. Furthermore, teachers have reported a lack of vicarious experiences as well
as support from school and colleagues [5,19,31].
3. Methodology
Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this study to better understand
science teachers’ perceptions of ISE and of self-efficacy in relation to ISE (see Figure 1).
The research was data-driven and started with mapping out common denominators for
science teachers’ perceptions via Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). The identified factor
solution was used as a thematic aid when conducting content analysis of the open-ended
questions about how best to define IE and the possibilities and challenges of implementing
ISE. Researchers also gathered together the quantitative descriptive data about the science
teachers and their experiences with ISE.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 5 of 20
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 20
3. Methodology
Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this study to better under-
stand science teachers’ perceptions of ISE and of self-efficacy in relation to ISE (see Figure
1). The research was data-driven and started with mapping out common denominators
for science teachers’ perceptions via Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). The identified
factor solution was used as a thematic aid when conducting content analysis of the open-
ended questions about how best to define IE and the possibilities and challenges of im-
plementing ISE. Researchers also gathered together the quantitative descriptive data
about the science teachers and their experiences with ISE.
Figure 1. Mixed method research approach was used in this study.
3.1. Survey Instrument
As described in Figure 1, survey was used as a data collection method. An online
survey was administered to Finnish teachers via mailing lists and Facebook groups for
science teachers on the eve of a curriculum change (see Section 1.1), in November 2015.
The questionnaire was constructed with quantitative and qualitative questions to measure
teachers’ perceptions of integrated education and the implementation of ISE as well as
their teaching experiences with it. Measures included background structured questions,
open-ended questions and a five-point Likert-scale instrument with 31 ISE-related items
measuring degree of agreement, ranging from five ‘strongly agree’ to one ‘strongly disa-
gree’ and an additional ‘I don’t know’ option. The instrument items were formulated
Figure 1. Mixed method research approach was used in this study.
3.1. Survey Instrument
As described in Figure 1, survey was used as a data collection method. An online
survey was administered to Finnish teachers via mailing lists and Facebook groups for
science teachers on the eve of a curriculum change (see Section 1.1), in November 2015.
The questionnaire was constructed with quantitative and qualitative questions to measure
teachers’ perceptions of integrated education and the implementation of ISE as well as
their teaching experiences with it. Measures included background structured questions,
open-ended questions and a five-point Likert-scale instrument with 31 ISE-related items
measuring degree of agreement, ranging from five ‘strongly agree’ to one ‘strongly disagree’
and an additional ‘I don’t know’ option. The instrument items were formulated based on
earlier research on ISE [
7
,
24
,
40
,
47
]. Two fellow science education researchers examined
the face validity of the survey. A pilot test followed by discussions with a few pre-service
teacher students was conducted, resulting in minor changes to the survey.
3.2. Participants
Ninety-five Finnish science teachers took part in the survey. Excluding seven mathe-
matics teachers, all respondents taught one or two science disciplines (physics, chemistry,
biology or geography). The disciplines were often coupled with teaching mathematics.
A comparison of the number of teachers in basic and general upper secondary education
in Finland in 2016 and in the survey (94.7% of the respondents) are presented in Table 1.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 6 of 20
This study does not represent the teachers in vocational or liberal education as only a few
respondents identified themselves as teachers in vocational or liberal education.
Table 1.
Number of science and mathematics teachers in basic and general upper secondary education in Finland and in the
survey (respondents). Numbers shown per primary taught subject.
Number of Teachers
in Finland 1Respondents Respondents (% of Teachers)
Basic education 2
Mathematics or data science 1677 32 1.91
Science 31310 25 1.91
Other 23,659 11 40.05
Total 26,646 68 0.26
General upper secondary education
Mathematics or data science 760 10 1.32
Science 3678 12 1.77
Other 3779 0 0.00
Total 5217 22 50.42
1
Source: Vipunen–Education Statistics Finland (https://vipunen.fi/en-gb/, accessed on 25 November 2020). Personnel, statistical year
2016, survey response rate 66%.
2
Includes teachers in primary and/or lower secondary schools.
3
Science subjects included biology, physics,
chemistry, geography, and environment and nature studies.
4
All respondents were classroom teachers providing primary education.
5
Eight teachers providing both lower and upper secondary education are reported in the number of upper secondary education teachers.
More than 75% of the science teachers had over ten years of teaching experience.
However, their experience with integrated practices and collegial collaboration was limited
(see Table A1 in Appendix A). The results show that primary school teachers have used all
of the integrated practises more than secondary school teachers. Four secondary school
teachers, three with over ten years of experience and a novice teacher, reported that they
had never implemented any form of integrated practices.
Most teachers (93.5%) had organised integrated activities, such as a theme day, class
event or a school visit, at least once a year. The six teachers who had never organised
any integrated activities were all from secondary schools. Half of the teachers had never
executed more extensive (at least a week in length) integrated study units, while 28.7%
reported having done so less than five times during their teaching career. Collaboration
within the same subject was more common than interdisciplinary collaboration. However,
11.3% of the teachers stated that they had never collaborated with colleagues.
The sample does not represent the science teacher population because of the channels
used for distributing the e-survey. Therefore, the results might overtly present the opinions
of teachers who are actively following online forums for science teachers and who are
interested in developing their education, thus creating a possible bias in the sample.
3.3. Mixed Methods
The mixed method approach via exploratory factor analysis, data-driven content
analysis and descriptive analysis was used in this study to better understand science
teachers’ perceptions of ISE and of self-efficacy in relation to ISE (see Figure 1).
3.3.1. Exploratory Factor Analysis
EFA was conducted using SPSS (Software Package for Social Science, version 24.0).
The survey consisted of 31 five-point Likert scale variables that tested teachers’ conceptions
of ISE. Three variables with 20% or more missing values were removed from the initial
factor analysis, resulting in 28 items and a N:p ratio of 3:1. As this is a small dataset for
factor analysis, the researchers felt that omitting cases with missing values would cause
more bias than using a missing value technique that retained all participants. Therefore,
only cases with more than 40% missing values were eliminated to maximise the sample size
(n= 89). Further, the factor extraction process to diminish biased results was meticulously
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 7 of 20
implemented according to the recommendation given by McNeish [
52
] in his study on the
combined effect of a small sample and missing values when using EFA, while also ensuring
that the extracted factors make conceptual and theoretical sense [53].
Missing values (3.4%) were tested using Little’s MCAR test, and they proved to be
missing at random (MAR) (Chi-Square = 716.571, DF = 653, Sig. = 0.042). Both predictive
mean matching (PMM) and expectation maximisation (EM), the recommended missing
value techniques [
52
,
54
], were tested with similar results. EM was chosen for its simplicity
for making calculations in SPSS. Multicollinearity was checked and did not cause issues
when conducting EFA. Likewise, multivariate outliers were checked, with none being found.
The factorability of the 28 variables was examined using several criteria that supported
the usefulness of factor analysis for the data and the inclusion of all the items in the
analysis. First, the Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin measure of sampling adequacy proved adequate
(
KMO = 0.672
), while Bartlett’s test of sphericity was significant (p< 0.001). Second, all the
diagonals of the anti-image correlation matrix were above 0.5, except for four variables
(>0.4). Finally, the initial communalities were all above 0.4. Principal axis factoring (PAF)
was used as an extraction method with promax as a rotation method.
Several extraction criteria were employed to determine the best number of factors,
including Kaiser’s rule (eigenvalue > 1), scree plot and parallel analysis [
55
] with permuta-
tion. Seven variables were omitted during several factor runs because they failed to meet
the minimum criteria of having (1) a primary factor loading of 0.4 or above and (2) a cross
loading of 0.3 or above. For the resulting 21 variables, a factor structure with four factors
was clearest and best described the data according to the researchers.
3.3.2. Content Analysis
The analysis here included science teachers’ answers to open-ended questions about
how best to define integration and the possibilities and challenges of implementing ISE.
The researchers discarded answers and text segments that were irrelevant to the principal
focus of this content analysis. The technique employed here utilises frequency counts
as well as more interpretive, data-driven thematic analysis that focuses on describing
the meaning of communications in specific contexts [
56
,
57
]. Using both quantitative and
qualitative analysis of texts adds to the quality of the analysis [58].
Content analyses should be systematic and replicable [
56
,
59
]. However, qualitative
content analyses require greater researcher judgments in coding and in data analysis [
56
].
With qualitative content analysis, the inter-coder reliability is of particular significance,
since content-related arguments should be given preference over procedural arguments
and validity should be regarded more highly than reliability [57].
The preliminary coding and category formulation process, based on the four-factor
EFA solution, was carried out with a portion of the sample (secondary teachers, approx.
2/3 of the total sample) by two researchers. The similarities and differences were discussed
before one of the researchers formulated a coherent category system that was tested via
inter-coder reliability. The category system included three parts, one for each question. The
coding and review process was repeated by the researcher and each time after a discussion
with the coder until a satisfactory kappa result (0.7 or higher) was obtained. For the final
category solutions, inter-coder testing was conducted both with an outside coder (Cohen’s
kappa 0.804) and with the two researchers who had formulated the preliminary categories
(Cohen’s kappa 0.914).
4. Results
The findings on science teachers’ perceptions and self-efficacy in the context of ISE are
presented per research focus. First, we present teachers’ perceptions of ISE (see
Section 4.1
).
Second, we show results on teachers’ self-efficacy (see
Section 4.2
) that proved to be a key
factor in the exploratory factor analysis explaining most (23.04%) of the total variance in
teachers’ perceptions of ISE. However, as the findings are mainly based on the categories
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 8 of 20
(content analysis) and factors (exploratory factor analysis), we shortly present these solutions
before delving deeper into the results.
The final factor solution included variables with factor loadings over 0.4 and explained
52.5% of the total variance in teachers’ perceptions of ISE via the following four factors:
(F1) self-efficacy for ISE, (F2) relevance of ISE, (F3) challenges of ISE and (F4) multifaceted nature
of ISE. Table A2 (see Appendix A) shows the factor loading matrix and communalities
for all variables in the final four-factor solution. We examined the internal consistency of
each factor using Cronbach’s alpha, and the results were moderate: (F1) the self-efficacy
for ISE factor (7 items) was 0.874, (F2) the relevance of ISE factor (5 items) was 0.858, (F3)
the challenges of ISE factor (4 items) was 0.765 and (F4) the multifaceted nature of ISE factor
(5 items) was 0.688. No increases in alpha for any of the factors would have been achieved
by eliminating more items.
The category system resulting from the content analysis consisted of three parts:
1.
Categories of integrated education included eight categories (see Section 4.1.1) with
interdisciplinary,wholeness and phenomenon-based being the most frequent concepts
teachers used to describe integrated education.
2.
The possibilities of ISE included eight categories (see Section 4.1.2). Integrity of
knowledge and motivation were the two categories best describing teachers’ perceptions
of the possibilities.
3.
The challenges of ISE included seven categories (see Section 4.1.3) with administration
and time related challenges being the main barriers for teachers for implementing ISE.
4.1. Teachers’ Perceptions of Integrated Science Education
Teachers’ perceptions of ISE and the possibilities and challenges of implementing
ISE are described in three sections named according to the corresponding factor: 4.1.1
Multifaceted nature of ISE, 4.1.2 Relevance of ISE and 4.1.3 Challenges of ISE.
4.1.1. Multifaceted Nature of ISE
Factor F4, the multifaceted nature of ISE, consisted of five items, which explained
5.06% of the total variance with factor loadings ranging from 0.45 to 0.68 (see Table A2
in
Appendix A
). One variable (in integrated education, one must apply the skills and
knowledge learned within the context of everyday life), with a primary loading 0.55, had a
cross-loading of 0.30 for the challenge factor. However, the researchers felt the variable fits
into the context of the factor and the solution was stronger with this variable than without it.
Content analysis of the way science teachers choose to define integrated education
further elucidated the diverse nature of ISE (see Table 2). The variable stating integrated
education as student-centred approach characterised factor F4 the most; in contrast, this
characterisation did not appear equally in teachers’ definitions of integrated education in
the content analysis. For the most part, teachers’ definitions emphasised (1) collaboration
between subjects, which we categorised either as multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary, and (2)
the importance of examining the complexity of issues as comprehensive whole (wholeness) and
using a phenomenon-based approach. Some teachers presented contradictory views as to whether
such integration should take the form of subject-based or phenomenon-based integration.
Teachers’ experiences with integrated activities affected their perception of ISE. Teach-
ers who reported regularly engaging in integrated activities (at least five times a year)
agreed more with statements about the multifaceted nature of ISE (p= 0.031, Fisher’s Exact
Test). Furthermore, we noted some interesting differences between the views of primary
and secondary school science teachers. First, their perception of ISE as being interdisci-
plinary varies: 30.6% for primary school teachers and 15.7% for secondary school teachers.
Second, compared to primary school teachers, the perceptions of secondary school teachers
aligned more with subject-based integration (12.9% of secondary school teachers; 2.8% of
primary school teachers) and multidisciplinary approaches (11.4% of secondary school
teachers; 5.6% of primary school teachers). We investigated these differences using cross
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 9 of 20
tabulation but did not find enough evidence to suggest a statistically significant association
since the p-value was greater than 0.05 (p= 0.198, Fisher’s Exact Test).
Table 2.
Factor F4 (multifaceted nature of integration) variables with corresponding categories of content analysis regarding
science teachers’ definitions of integrated education (IE). Frequencies (%) are shown based on occurrences (n= 127) per category.
Factor F4 Variables
(Factor Loading)
Examples of Science Teachers’ Definitions of Integrated
Education (IE) Categories of IE Freq (%)
Student-centred approach is essential
in IE (0.68)
‘Teaching disciplines through students’ lives and their
experiences.’ (Teacher 39)
‘Personally meaningful for the students.’ (Teacher 59)
‘Help and support the students according to their
individual needs.’ (Teacher 74)
Student-centred 7.1
IE should be linked to students’ daily
lives and to society (0.57)
In IE, one must apply the skills and
knowledge learned within the context
of everyday life (0.55)
‘The understanding of the wholeness of issues influencing
peoples’ living environment.’ (Teacher 44)
‘Integrated education combines the school world and daily
lives together, in which case the learning will be done from
the perspective of multiple disciplines, students’ daily lives
and even working life.’ (Teacher 32)
Everyday life 7.1
IE requires collaboration between
subjects (0.46)
‘Discussing phenomenon-based issues that cross subject
boundaries. The aim is to understand the links and
dependencies between different contents of learning.’
(Teacher 18)
‘Integrated education refers to crossing subject boundaries
and teaching doesn’t necessarily happen in school.’
(Teacher 32)
Interdisciplinary 21.3
‘Learning about health education, home economics,
biology and environmental issues in chemistry. Traffic,
physical education, etc., together with physics. Math can be
applied within all in appropriate places.’ (Teacher 82)
‘In practice, this means that in mathematics teaching, one
can use examples from other subjects and in other subjects
use mathematics.’ (Teacher 97)
‘Learning about a common topic in both subjects,
discarding overlapping matter.’ (Teacher 2)
Multidisciplinary 7.9
In IE, it is essential to examine the
complexity of a phenomenon
comprehensively (0.45)
‘Teaching forms a logical whole, in which facts link to each
other either within traditional subjects or between them.
The learning content forms an integrated [whole].’ (Teacher
90)
‘Students form an integral understanding of concepts and
contents.’ (Teacher 52)
Wholeness 21.3
‘An interesting issue defines the direction of teaching and
the skills to be learned.’ (Teacher 54)
‘Phenomenon-based education, where matters of several
subjects are learned at the same time.’ (Teacher 85)
Phenomenon-based 16.5
‘A student can link knowledge and skills across disciplines
and within discipline.
. . .
Math, physics and chemistry are
a difficult combination, as people begin to have their
thumbs in their palms. You need to know the basics of the
subjects and then you can start to innovate...’ (Teacher 31)
‘It is rehearsal of previously learned [subject matter],
adding, deepening and applying it.’ (Teacher 100)
Subject-based 10.2
Other 4.7
Total 100
In conclusion, teachers in the study defined the multifaceted nature of ISE mostly as
a student-centred approach that requires collaboration and links different subjects with
students’ daily lives by focusing on a specific phenomenon or the broader context of daily
life and applying skills and knowledge learned in school in such a context. Furthermore,
a clear positive correlation (0.44) existed between this factor and the relevance of ISE factor.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 10 of 20
4.1.2. Relevance of ISE
Factor 2, the relevance of ISE, explained 16.43% of the total variance and included five
variables underlining different dimensions of relevance, with factor loadings ranging from
0.61 to 0.86 (see Table A2 in Appendix A). Based on the factor variables, the science teachers
reported that ISE is personally relevant (I would like to use more integrated approaches in my
teaching, 0.86), vocationally relevant (I think integrated education is a suitable method to teach
the subjects I am teaching, 0.69) and socially relevant (integrated education helps students to
understand the interconnected nature of issues better than traditional education, 0.68).
Science teachers’ perceptions of the possibilities of ISE offer some explanation as to
why they view ISE as being relevant (see Table 3). The learning outcomes category is linked
to all other categories, as learning is the general aim of all teaching. This was most evident
with the category integrity of knowledge, which includes the ability to transfer knowledge
and further illustrates how teachers perceive ISE as especially vocationally relevant.
Table 3.
Factor F2 (relevance) variables with corresponding categories of content analysis regarding science teachers’
perceptions of the possibilities of integrated science education (POSS). Frequencies (%) are shown based on occurrences
(n= 100) per category. The abbreviation IE is used for integrated education in the table.
Factor F2 Variable
(Factor Loading)
Examples of Science Teachers’ Perceptions of
POSS Categories of POSS Freq. (%)
I would like to use more integrated
approaches in my teaching (0.86)
‘All the pupils like this method of working. It is
also inspiring for myself.’ (Teacher 53)
‘Motivation increases when one can apply what
one has learned in new situations.’ (Teacher 100).
Motivation 22.0
I think it is important to implement integration
within my own teaching (0.82)
I think IE is a suitable method to teach the
subjects that I am teaching (0.69)
‘The meaningfulness of learning increases.’
(Teacher 19)
‘Students can get a better understanding of the fact
that chemistry is part of everyday life.’ (Techer 98)
‘[Students] can apply things to their daily lives and
studies.’ (Teacher 5)
Meaningful 13.0
‘It adds a new perspective to one’s teaching and
one is also learning him/herself.’ (Teacher 8)
‘Special emphasis is on data acquisition and
presentation. The use of ICT is easily incorporated
into work.’ (Teacher 88)
Variety 8.0
‘Increases well-being at school.’ (Teacher 26)
‘Students’ personal growth in becoming
independent.’ (teacher 89)
‘Joy of learning.’ (Teacher 34)
Well-being 8.0
‘Only the sky is the limit . . . student-centred and
inquiry-based learning can be better executed,
room for students’ interests and creativity.’
(Teacher 81)
‘Students learn from each other, which is a very
good thing!’ (Teacher 7)
Student-centred 4.0
IE helps students to understand the
interconnected nature of issues better than
traditional education (0.68)
‘The overlapping content of different subjects can
be utilised better. The fact that one has learned
something in chemistry does not mean one could
not study it again in physics. When students
realise that they have already learned this in a
different context, the “overload” decreases.’
(Teacher 30)
‘Issues and phenomena will form entities, and all
will be linked together.’ (Teacher 12)
Integrity of knowledge 27.0
With IE, one can achieve better learning
outcomes than with traditional
education (0.61)
‘Team working skills develop for all involved.’
(Teacher 38).
‘One learns to pursue knowledge, edit tables and
draw conclusions. One learns to apply
mathematics.’ (Teacher 82)
‘One can get absorbed in one’s topic more
thoroughly.’ (Teacher 68)
Learning Outcomes 13.0
Other 5.0
Total 100
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 11 of 20
For the most part, teachers described ISE as relevant because of its potential to (1)
motivate teachers or students, (2) enable greater integrity or cohesion of learned knowledge,
and (3) be meaningful. This was affirmed by teachers’ perceptions of the most essential
aims of integrated education for their own subject teaching (see Table 4). The three aims
emphasised as the most essential for ISE related to the same sources of relevance, namely
integrity of knowledge,motivation and meaningfulness.
Table 4.
The frequencies of science teachers’ views on the essential aims of integrated science education (ISE). Teachers
were asked to choose a maximum of three aims. Frequencies shown per occurrence and per teacher (n= 95).
Aims Associated with ISE Freq Freq (% of Occurrences) Freq (% of Teachers)
Understanding the nature of science and ‘how science is done’
19 7.42 20.00
Teaching the subject contents as integrated modules 49 19.14 51.58
Student’s growth as an individual 27 10.55 28.42
Learning skills and knowledge needed for everyday life 46 17.97 48.42
Learning skills and knowledge needed from the
societal perspective 38 14.84 40.00
Mastery of the subject content (including skills
and knowledge) 26 10.16 27.37
To motivate students to study mathematics and science 49 19.14 51.58
Other (specified as collaboration) 2 0.78 2.11
Total 256 100.00 269.47
The 26 teachers who reportedly view mastery of the subject content as an essential
aim of ISE were an anomaly among the teachers in the study, as they perceived ISE as
being less relevant (p= 0.040, Fisher’s Exact Test) and a method not well suited to their
teaching objectives (p= 0.031, Fisher’s Exact Test). They also reported being less willing to
incorporate integration into their teaching (p= 0.034, Fisher’s Exact Test). This group of
teachers did not differ from the other teachers by school level or by their years of experience
in teaching or applying integrated methods.
Furthermore, cross tabulation revealed a statistically significant difference between
teachers at different school levels in regard to their views on the relevance of ISE (
p= 0.010
,
Fisher’s Exact Test). Secondary school teachers, whether at lower, combined or upper
secondary schools, to some extent expressed disagreement with the notion that ISE is
relevant, whereas none of the primary school teachers disagreed with it. However, lower
secondary school teachers tended to be more closely aligned with primary school teachers,
with more than 85% of teachers in both groups with agreeing or strongly agreeing with the
relevance statements.
4.1.3. Challenges of ISE
The factor analysis identified the challenges of ISE as a latent factor (F3) comprised of
four items that explained 7.94% of the variance, with factor loadings ranging from 0.46 to
0.86 (see Table A2 in Appendix A). The variables explaining the challenge factor for the
most part emphasise ISE as a time-consuming and laborious method. This factor had a
negative correlation with the relevance factor (see Table A3 in Appendix A), indicating
that teachers who view integrated approaches as more relevant tend to regard ISE as less
of a challenge. The content analysis revealed a wider range of challenges for ISE. The
similar range of challenges identified by the teachers, especially those related to time and
administration, further highlighted issues related to the factor variables (see Table 5). No
teachers provided clarifying statements for the variable ‘Implementing integrated education
requires cutting subject matter from the lessons’ (0.50), thus we omitted it from the table.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 12 of 20
Table 5.
Factor F3 (challenges) and F1 (teachers’ self-efficacy) variables with corresponding categories of content analysis
regarding science teachers’ perceptions of the challenges of integrated science education (CHAL). Frequencies (%) are
shown based on occurrences (n= 124) per category.
Factor Variable
(Factor Loading)
Examples of Science Teachers’ Perceptions of
CHAL Categories of CHAL Freq. (%)
F3: Implementing integrated education is
more laborious than traditional
education (0.85)
‘The laboriousness of planning [integrated
lessons].’ (Teacher 67)
‘Finding suitable topics that offer enough, yet not
too much, material. I will have to be the one to
find all of the reading tasks, invent topics for art
and guide writing essays, etc. . . . ’ (Teacher 68)
‘Acknowledge all the students adequately.’
(Teacher 59)
Implementation 13.7
F3: Integrated lessons require more time
from the teacher than carrying out
traditional lessons (0.86)
‘More time is spent guiding personal project work
and [with] assessment. There are also many
meetings.’ (Teacher 82)
‘Planning takes time.’ (Teacher 42)
Resource-Time 24.2
F3: Because of a lack of time,
implementing integrated education in
collaboration with other teachers is
difficult (0.46)
‘Larger collaboration requires greater personal
input outside teaching time, especially at the
beginning.’ (Teacher 43)
‘Scheduling my own teaching with other teachers,
teaching groups and issues to be dealt with. Even
though there is enthusiasm, good plans are only
partly executed because of a lack of time and
different schedules.’ (Teacher 94)
‘Courses that could have a lot in common are
offered to students in different periods.’
(Teacher 30)
‘It requires special arrangements from the principal
and more resources also for planning.’ (Teacher 8)
Administration 25.0
‘ . . . one can’t execute integration because of the
large number of students, and it is impossible to
arrange decent sized groups in a manner that
allows students into all the courses at the same
time. We have even tried to execute an integrated
unit with four teachers and four different
disciplines, but we did not manage to make the
students choose all the required courses at the
same time. The current structure should be
dismantled for authentic integration to be possible.’
(Teacher 64)
‘Most materials are meant for subject teaching.’
(Teacher 43)
‘It is difficult to choose the proper materials from
all the material out there.’ (Teacher 34)
Resource-Other 9.7
‘At the moment, in lower secondary schools
people are stuck in their own cubicles teaching
their own subjects. Integrated education happens
mostly just as talk.’ (Teacher 51).
‘Students are too conservative and beg for subject
boundaries.’ (Teacher 12)
Attitude 11.3
‘Small pupils have relatively few skills for working
autonomously.’ (Teacher 88)
‘Basic chemistry must be mastered before teaching
can be integrated with other disciplines, such as
biology, home economics or physics.’ (Teacher 92)
Competence 6.5
F1: Teachers’ self-efficacy for ISE
‘[All teachers must have . . . ] also internalized the
method on some level’. (Teacher 38)
‘Teacher’s knowledge and skills must be
sufficiently broad in order to make teaching truly
integrated instead of just binding a single lesson to
part of a whole unit.’ (Teacher 43)
Other 7.3
Total 100
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 13 of 20
Science teachers did have more to say about two time-related issues. The first issue
has to do with always feeling rushed while teaching and not having enough time to teach
everything. This includes a notion represented by the factor variable that ISE requires more
time from teachers in the classroom. The second time-related issue is that of collaboration,
a challenge factor that can partly be seen as an administrative issue.
Administrative challenges are viewed as external by teachers, thus successfully man-
aging them is rarely in the hands of the teachers alone (e.g., curricula and schedule-related
issues). In some cases, administrative challenges reportedly emerge because teachers view
ISE as something forced on them in a top-down process:
‘The greatest challenge is the pressure coming from superiors, who dictate that we need
to plan integrated study units with a different group each year (the old and already
functioning plans cannot be used). These [study units] need to last a certain amount
of time, and all subjects must be incorporated within them, even if they do not bring
any practical benefits. However, nothing can be taken out of the old syllabus, nor can
the hours spent on planning be taken away from somewhere else. Thus, I as a teacher
will have to do more work and compress the actual content into a smaller time frame.’
(Teacher 97)
The competence category as a challenge included statements relating either to teachers’
professional competence or to students’ abilities and skills. The former statements are
linked to factor 1) self-efficacy for ISE. In addition, we discovered a negative correlation
(
0.35) between self-efficacy and challenge factors (see Table A3 in Appendix A), sug-
gesting that teachers with lower self-efficacy for ISE perceive integration as somewhat
more challenging.
4.2. Teachers’ Self-Efficacy
Teachers’ self-efficacy for ISE was emphasised as a key factor explaining most (23.04%)
of the total variance in teachers’ perceptions of ISE. It consisted of seven items with factor
loadings ranging from
0.60 to
0.86 (see Table A2 in Appendix A). All items referred to
high self-efficacy statements, such as ‘I possess a sufficient amount of knowledge to implement
integrated education’ (
0.86), and were negatively loaded, thus indicating that the latent
factor is actually opposite: low self-efficacy. On average, teachers neither agreed nor
disagreed with the factor statements (mean 3.20), however their answers varied greatly
from ‘I strongly disagree’ to ‘I strongly agree’.
In addition, few self-efficacy related challenges emerged from the content analysis,
indicating that teachers tend to regard the implementing of ISE as possible only with a
certain set of skills, knowledge and professional competence:
‘[All teachers must have . . . ] also internalised the method on some level.’(Teacher 38)
‘Teachers’ knowledge and skills must be sufficiently broad in order to make teaching truly
integrated instead of just binding a single lesson to part of a whole unit.’ (Teacher 43)
Cross tabulation revealed statistically significant differences (p= 0.028, Fisher’s Exact
Test) between primary and secondary school teachers with regard to their self-efficacy.
Primary school teachers showed more confidence in their own abilities at executing ISE
lessons and their understanding of integration (46.5% agreed or strongly agreed with the
factor statements and only 10.7% disagreed). Secondary school teachers demonstrated
more variance in their answers and especially upper secondary teachers expressed less
confidence in their competence and more need for support, with 28.6% disagreeing or
strongly disagreeing with the factor statements.
Furthermore, teachers who reportedly engage in integrated activities seldom or never
expressed lower self-efficacy beliefs (p= 0.001, Fisher’s Exact Test) and perceived ISE
as more challenging (p= 0.039, Fisher’s Exact Test). Teachers with less experience in
interdisciplinary collaboration agreed more strongly with statements on the challenges of
ISE (
p= 0.025
, Fisher’s Exact Test) and tended to have lower self-efficacy beliefs (
p= 0.053
,
Fisher’s Exact Test). The latter difference, however interesting, is not statistically significant.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 14 of 20
5. Discussion and Conclusions
In this study, the focus was twofold: (1) to understand how teachers perceive ISE and
(2) to assess if science teachers’ perceptions of and experiences with integrated education
influence their views on self-efficacy in relation to ISE. We used EFA as a starting point
to reveal latent factors explaining teachers’ perceptions of ISE, and further elaborated on
these factors via the content analysis and by comparing them to the experiences teachers
reportedly have had with ISE (see Figure 1). Self-efficacy emerged as a key factor explaining
teachers’ perceptions of and their lack of confidence in implementing ISE as well as their
need for support.
The majority of the science teachers in the study had a general understanding of
integrated education, though their definitions of it varied. The variance was expected, as
there is no consensus on a single definition even among researchers [
22
]. For the most
part, the teachers’ definitions emphasised (1) collaboration between subjects, which we
categorised either as multidisciplinary or as interdisciplinary, and (2) the importance of
examining the complexity of issues as a comprehensive whole and via a phenomenon-
based approach. The latter may partly be explained by the approach of the Finnish
National Core Curriculum [
15
] to integrated education. Teachers emphasised the former—
collaboration—as vital for the implementation of ISE and felt that it constitutes a time- and
administration-related challenge, a finding corroborated by earlier research [5].
The challenges that teachers associated with ISE, e.g., time constraints, administra-
tive issues and laborious implementation, are well in line with earlier findings [
5
,
7
,
19
].
Interestingly, the issue of implementation constraints did not only come up in the question
about the challenges of ISE, they emerged as a separate factor and were present in answers
on the benefits of and proper way to define ISE. The plethora of challenges reported by
teachers can partly be explained by the fact that ISE is still a novelty for Finnish science
teachers, a conclusion supported by the number of “I don’t know” responses and insecurity
showed by teachers when defining integration. Furthermore, it may indicate teachers’
frustration with how the educational reform is being executed and with the top-down
mandate (see [
13
]) to use integrated approaches, as Finnish teachers are accustomed to
being pedagogically autonomous.
Despite the challenges, these results also indicate that the majority of the science teach-
ers perceive ISE as being relevant for their subject teaching and are willing to implement
it more often. Teachers’ perceptions of the relevance of ISE are aligned with the three
dimensions (personal, vocational, societal) suggested by Stuckey et al. [
60
], although the
issue of personal relevance was mentioned for both students and teachers themselves.
Teachers emphasised three sources of relevance above all others: integrity of knowledge,
motivation and meaningfulness of ISE. This perception of ISE as relevant should influence
how it is implemented in classrooms [
5
,
27
,
47
]. This finding is corroborated by the evidence
from the 26 teachers who, contrary to the other teachers in the study, mentioned mastery of
the subject content as an essential aim of ISE. They stated that integration is less relevant
and less useful for science education and expressed less of an eagerness to adopt integrated
approaches in their teaching. However, even the majority of teachers who perceived ISE as
relevant noted that they only implement it on rare occasions and in an irregular manner,
with few exceptions. There are at least two possible explanations for this contradiction
between willingness to implement ISE and actual practice. First, the perceived obstacles can
affect teachers’ willingness to implement it, especially if the teacher has lower self-efficacy
in relation to ISE [
5
,
49
]. Second, conflicting educational beliefs and epistemological beliefs
may constrain teachers from implementing even positively valued practices [29,48,61].
The results indicate that especially teachers’ experiences with integrated activities
and interdisciplinary collaboration correlate with their views of ISE and their challenges
and self-efficacy beliefs in relation to ISE. This was evident when studying the perceptions
of primary and secondary school teachers. Primary school teachers displayed higher
self-efficacy for ISE and a more cohesive understanding of integration, and they had more
experience with integrated practices and collaboration than did secondary school teachers.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 15 of 20
This difference may be explained by differences in the ways of organising education
and the curriculum [
5
,
7
], as teachers at all levels quite often reported that they must
deal with administration-related challenges. Contradictory findings exist, which indicate
that secondary school teachers may have higher self-efficacy for science education [
62
].
However, as self-efficacy beliefs are context related [
30
], it follows that teachers’ self-efficacy
for science education and for ISE are separate beliefs.
In conclusion, science teachers reported having little experience with integrated prac-
tices and collegial collaboration. It cannot be deduced from these results whether it is a
lack of experience that affects teachers’ challenge-centred perceptions and their lack of
self-efficacy for ISE, or vice versa. Bandura [
30
] observed that mastery experiences serve as
a primary source of self-efficacy, while at the same time there is evidence that teachers with
lower self-efficacy are less prone to try new practices [63].
These results cannot be generalised and might overtly present the opinions of teachers
who are actively following online science teacher forums. Nevertheless, we feel that the
findings are valuable as they (1) paint a picture of teachers’ perceptions and self-efficacy
beliefs on the eve of a curriculum change that emphasises integrated approaches and (2)
add to our understanding of self-efficacy in the context of ISE.
6. Implications
Similar reforms to those made in Finland are being made or have been made in
many countries. Implementing ISE is a novelty to Finnish teachers and presents them
with multiple barriers to overcome. These findings highlight self-efficacy as a key factor
explaining science teachers’ perceptions of and their lack of confidence in implementing
ISE in such a situation, as well as their need for support. Furthermore, teachers’ prior
experiences with integrated approaches correlated with their views on ISE and self-efficacy
in relation to ISE.
Assisting teachers with successful implementation and offering training opportunities
to carry out integrated activities and interdisciplinary collaboration can positively affect
teachers’ perceptions and self-efficacy in relation to ISE. This can influence teachers’ willing-
ness to engage and implement ISE in future [
5
]. Teachers need feasible models to integrate
ISE with classroom practices that focus on integrated activities and collaboration, while at
the same time being relevant for subject teaching. Recent efforts towards this have been
made; for example, Gardner and Tillotson [
64
] explored this with a focus on the collective
use of space and time as major component of an integrated STEM model. Another example
of a pedagogical model is Learn STEM [
65
] which has been designed in collaboration with
researchers and secondary schools in six European countries. Nevertheless, there is still a
lot of uncertainty around the implementation possibilities of STEM [17].
Teachers’ beliefs are conceived as immutable, incontrovertible and persistent over
time [
26
,
29
], and the influence of these beliefs can be traced back to when teachers were
students themselves [
66
]. Therefore, ISE reform may be integrated with classroom practices
more sufficiently if ISE is taken into consideration already during pre-service teacher
training. Some efforts towards this have been made; for example, in their case study, Kousa
et al. [
67
] found out that an interdisciplinary school–industry collaboration course can be
an effective way to implement STSE issues into pre-service teaching and significantly raise
pre-service teachers’ confidence and readiness to teach STSE issues.
Additionally, a collaborative primary–secondary school teacher training programme
could be an opportunity to support teachers in future ISE teaching since primary school
teachers seem to have higher self-efficacy and more experience with integrative approaches
and secondary school teachers have more confidence in teaching science as a subject.
However, more research is needed to clarify the feasible models for introducing ISE into
pre-service and in-service teacher training and the impact of different teacher training
programmes on teachers’ beliefs about ISE.
Integrated education remains a desired teaching practice, and teachers need to have a
strong sense of their own capabilities in order to overcome the identified challenges. These
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 16 of 20
findings indicate that on the eve of a curriculum change emphasising integration, Finnish
science teachers expressed a varied understanding of ISE and their self-efficacy was as a
key factor explaining their lack of confidence in implementing ISE, as well as their need
for support. Therefore, policymakers and teacher trainers advocating ISE must not ignore
teachers’ perceptions and self-efficacy beliefs or else integration will remain insufficiently
implemented in science education.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, O.H. and J.T.; methodology, O.H., J.T. and M.A.; formal
analysis and validation, O.H. and J.T.; writing—original draft preparation, O.H.; writing—review
and editing, O.H. and M.A.; supervision, M.A. All authors have read and agreed to the published
version of the manuscript.
Funding:
This research has been carried out with the support of the Finnish Cultural Foundation
under Grant 00190277. Open access funding provided by University of Helsinki.
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement:
Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.
Data Availability Statement: Not applicable.
Acknowledgments:
The authors are grateful to Jaana Herranen for her insightful comment and
proofreading.
Conflicts of Interest:
The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design
of the study; in the collection, analyses or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript or
in the decision to publish the results.
Appendix A
Table A1. Science teachers’ experience with teaching, integrated practices and collaborating with colleagues.
Science Teachers’ Teaching Experience
Over 10 years
6–10 years 3–5 years 1–2 years Less than
a year Total
Teaching experience 72 11 9 2 1 95
Teaching
experience (%) 75.8 11.6 9.5 2.1 1.0 100.0
Science Teachers’ Experience in Integrated Education
Never 1–2 times per
year
3–5 times per
year
Over 5 times
per year
1–2 times per
month
Over 2 times
per month Total
Integrated practices
Parallel subjects 19 37 9 10 8 10 93
Periodic subjects 16 16 17 17 5 18 89
Integrated activities 6 43 22 15 3 4 93
Total 41 96 48 42 16 32 275
Total (%) 14.9 34.9 17.5 15.3 5.8 11.6 100.0
Collaboration with Colleagues
Within the subject 16 25 19 13 6 14 93
Interdisciplinary 26 38 14 8 3 3 92
Total 42 63 33 21 9 17 185
Total (%) 22.7 34.0 17.8 11.4 4.9 9.2 100.0
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 17 of 20
Table A2.
Factor loadings and extracted communalities of exploratory factor analysis regarding science teachers’ perceptions
of integrated education (IE). All loadings < 0.2 were omitted.
Variables Factor Communalities
1234
1. Factor: Self-efficacy
I possess a sufficient amount of knowledge to implement IE. 0.86 0.71
I don’t need any support for implementing IE. 0.82 0.20 0.64
I can plan and execute integrative learning modules. 0.77 0.66
I have adequate skills to implement IE. 0.72 0.27 0.60
I don’t need more integrative teaching material for implementing IE. 0.66 0.40
Taking integrative instructions into account in my own teaching is easy
for me. 0.62 0.29 0.60
I know enough about other subjects to implement IE. 0.60 0.22 0.44
2. Factor: Relevance
I would like to use more integrated approaches in my teaching. 0.23 0.86 0.65
I think it is important to implement integration within my
own teaching. 0.82 0.73
I think IE is a suitable method to teach the subjects that I am teaching. 0.25 0.69 0.59
IE helps students to understand the interconnected nature of issues
better than traditional education. 0.68 0.57
With IE, one can achieve better learning outcomes than with traditional
education. 0.61 0.25 0.60
3. Factor: Challenges
Integrated lessons require more time from the teacher than carrying out
traditional lessons. 0.86 0.66
Implementing integrated education is more laborious than traditional
education. 0.85 0.66
Implementing integrated education requires cutting down on subject
content. 0.50 0.40
Because of a lack of time, implementing integrated education in
collaboration with other teachers is difficult. 0.46 0.33
4. Factor: Multifaceted nature of integration
A student-centred approach is essential in IE. 0.68 0.42
IE should be linked to students’ daily lives and to society. 0.57 0.36
In IE, one must apply the skills and knowledge learned within the
context of everyday life. 0.30 0.55 0.44
IE requires collaboration between subjects. 0.46 0.25
In IE, it is essential to examine the complexity of a phenomenon
comprehensively. 0.45 0.29
Total variance explained by the factors (squared loadings. %) 52.46
1. Factor: Self-efficacy 23.04
2. Factor: Relevance (of IE) 16.43
3. Factor: Challenges (of IE) 7.94
4. Factor: Multifaceted Integration 5.06
Extraction Method: Principal Axis Factoring with a fixed number of factors.
Rotation Method: Promax with Kaiser Normalisation. Rotation converged in 5 iterations.
Table A3.
Descriptive statistics for the four factors relating to science teachers’ conceptions of integrated education (n= 89)
and the factor correlation matrix (the negative factor loadings of F1 have been taken into account in the factor correlations).
N of
Items Mean SD Variance Skewness Kurtosis Cronbach’s
Alpha
Factor Correlation Matrix
F1 F2 F3 F4
F1. Self-efficacy 7 3.20 0.84 0.71 0.07 0.45 0.874 1.00
F2. Relevance 5 3.92 0.81 0.66 1.00 0.77 0.858 0.12 1.00
F3. Challenges 4 3.69 0.82 0.67 0.63 0.30 0.765 0.35 0.32 1.00
F4. Multifaceted
Integration 5 4.17 0.58 0.33 0.58 0.42 0.688 0.11 0.44 0.13 1.00
Extraction Method: Principal Axis Factoring.
Rotation Method: Promax with Kaiser Normalisation.
Educ. Sci. 2021,11, 272 18 of 20
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