There remains a lack of agreement in the field of science education as to whether student "misconceptions" ought to be considered obstacles or resources, and this has implications for the ways in which prospective teachers think about the value of their students' ideas. This empirical study examines how 14 preservice secondary science teachers in four different science teacher preparation programs interpreted the rationale for eliciting student ideas. The findings indicate that the preservice teachers in this study showed an increase in recognizing the importance of student ideas, yet not all took the same view of their role and value in teaching, which appeared to be closely connected to beliefs about how learning takes place. Five different orientations to student ideas are described in the findings. These include viewing student ideas as evidence of content coverage, as obstacles to understanding, as tools to prime students thinking, interest, and activity, as elements of a positive classroom environment, and as the raw material of learning. The findings suggest that science teacher educators help focus preservice teachers' attention on student thinking and help them learn to incorporate their students' ideas into their instruction in ways that build upon those ideas.