Capturing prospective teachers’ beliefs about experimentation in geography classrooms

Validation of a new instrument


  • Hanna Velling Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Jan Christoph Schubert Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Chair for Geography Education



Background: Experimentation in geography teaching is considered to have great didactic potential, especially in the light of scientific literacy, but this potential is countered by the fact that the method is rarely used in the classroom. Geography teachers, with their subjective beliefs as part of their professional competence, represent a decisive factor for the use, design, and quality of experimentation in the classroom. Up to now, however, there is a lack of knowledge about the characteristics of (prospective) teachers’ beliefs about experimentation in geography education as well as of corresponding measurement instruments.

Purpose: Therefore, the aim of the present study is the confirmatory validation of a newly developed measurement instrument in the form of a questionnaire on prospective teachers’ beliefs about experimentation in geography classrooms.

Design and Methods: A measurement instrument on prospective teachers’ beliefs about experimentation in geography classrooms was previously developed based on re-analyses of qualitative interview studies and on literature research and the dimensionality of the construct was examined using exploratory factor analysis. Within the scope of the present study, the factor structure obtained was then specified by means of confirmatory factor analysis with an independent sample of prospective geography teachers. We further examined the reliability and validity of the five belief scales about potentials, learning preconditions and the implementation of experimentation in geography teaching by employing measurement invariance evaluation and correlation analysis.

Sample: The confirmatory factor analysis was conducted with a sample of N=344 student teachers of all semesters (1–13) and all German school types training to become geography teachers. The study was conducted as an online survey between June and November 2021.

Results: Our analyses support the construct validity (χ2 = 428.255, p = .001, df = 339; CFI: .962; TLI: .958; RMSEA = .028, 90% C.I. [.019, .035]; SRMR = .051; χ2/df = 1.26) and reliability (.64 ≤ α ≤ .88; 65 ≤ ρc ≤ .87) of the modified instrument. The results indicate strong measurement invariance across gender, school type (primary vs. secondary school), practical experience, and further studied STEM subject, suggesting that the instrument can be used for the designated subgroups and is suitable for mean value comparisons. Furthermore, the analysis provides first evidence for convergent and discriminant validity for the five scales.

Conclusions: With the questionnaire, for the first time an exploratively and confirmatory validated measurement instrument is available to survey the beliefs of prospective teachers about experimentation in geography teaching. Planned further steps in our research project as well as possible applications in practice are discussed.

Keywords: teacher beliefs, experiments, geography class, science teaching, questionnaire, scale development