Correlating Beliefs and Classroom Practices of Public School Science Teachers in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
The education system in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, has undergone radical changes over the past seven years. A major emphasis of these reforms has been to increase the degree to which students can self-motivate, inquire and carry out work independently. Nowhere is this more critical than in the subject of science, which has been historically taught in the U.A.E. as a didactic subject. The vision of Abu Dhabi‟s Educational Council (ADEC) is for science to be taught very differently with a focus on inquiry based learning, exploratory approaches and a facilitation of student autonomy to do this. Research on the relationship between teachers‟ belief systems and their classroom practices often (though not always) shows a positive correlation between the two. We explored whether this relationship was true for science teachers working within the challenging reforming education system in Abu Dhabi. We employed a survey questionnaire which asked teachers to rate belief statements about science learning and about their reported classroom practice. 248 teachers responded, the vast majority of whom reported beliefs in science which are well aligned with accepted „best practice‟ including the need for students to learn independently and using inquiry based approaches to learning. However, only a weak statistical correlation was found to exist between their beliefs and science classroom practices, due to constraints such as a lack of resources and lack of trained science lab assistants which they report as rendering them unable to practice their ideals about science teaching and learning. This research is significant for the scientific education community, particularly as it adds to the body of research describing teacher behavior amidst educational reforms.