Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 11, Issue 1, Article 1 (Jun., 2010)
Hakan AKCAY, Robert E. YAGER, Srini M. ISKANDER, & Halil TURGUT
Change in student beliefs about attitudes toward science in grades 6-9

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Attitudes towards science, scientists, and learning science have always been a concern for science educators. Attitude is very broadly used in discussing issues in science education and is often used in various contexts. Two broad categories are distinguishable. The first one is attitude toward science (e.g., interest in science, attitude toward scientists, or attitudes toward social responsibility in science). Attitude towards science can be defined as the feelings, beliefs, and values held about an object that may be the endeavor of science, school science, the impact of science and technology on society, or scientists. The second one is scientific attitude (i.e., open-minded, honesty, or skepticism). Scientific attitude is the desire to know and understand, questioning to all statements, search for data and their meaning, search for verification, and consideration of consequences (Gardner, 1975; Osborne, Simon & Collins, 2003).

Research studies that indicate positive correlations between achievement in science courses and positive attitudes toward science, attitude and certain characteristics of the classroom environments that include personal support, use of a variety of teaching strategies, innovative learning activities, and student-centered instructional designs have all been reported in the recent research journal (Osborne, Simon & Collins, 2003; Russell & Hollander, 1975; Shrigley, Koballa & Simpson, 1988; French & Russell, 2006). Attitudes towards science and scientists influence views of science, future career awareness, and classroom participation. Students who have positive attitudes show increased attention to classroom instruction and participate more in science activities (Germann, 1988; Jarvis & Pell, 2005).

Most research indicates that students develop more negative attitudes toward studying science, toward their science classes, and toward their science teachers the longer they study typical school science (Yager & McCormack, 1989). It is important to develop student positive attitude toward science. When they have positive attitudes, the learning of scientific information and science process skills are enhanced (Yager, 1996). After fourth grade student attitude toward science starts to decline through junior and high school (Penick & Yager, 1982). Assessment of student attitudes toward science have been conducted and reported. Student responses indicate that student interest in science decreases the longer the students study science (NAEP, 1978). Reasons why students develop more negative attitudes towards science as they move through elementary school include;

  • Students are interested in a number of non-school activities when they get older
  • Low achievement with school work
  • More emphasis on specific science facts
  • More emphasis on test results
  • Not much opportunity for students to enjoy science (Yager, 1996)

Research studies indicate many factors influencing attitudes toward science. Probably gender is the most significant variable related student attitudes toward science (Gardner, 1975; Schibeci, 1984; Weinburgh, 1995). Children receive messages about gender and ethnic stereotypes everyday from television programs and commercials, books, and the adults around them.  They also see pictures of scientists most of whom are all men, are all white, and have strange/weird behaviors. The strong correlation between attitude toward science and achievement indicate little difference between girls and boys. Also, more positive attitudes are necessary for girls to enable them to achieve high scores (Weingburgh, 1995; Jarvis &Pell, 2005).

The National Science Teachers Association defined the STS approach as the teaching and learning science and technology in the context of human experience (NSTA, 1990). STS means focusing upon current issues and attempts at their resolution as the best way of preparing students for current and future citizenship roles. This means identifying local, regional, national, and international problems with students, planning for individual and group activities which address them, and moving to actions designed to resolve the issues investigated. The emphasis is on responsible decision-making in the real world of the student. STS provides a means for achieving scientific and technological literacy for all. The emphasis is on responsible decision-making in the real world of the student where science and technology are components.

The view of the student where the STS approaches are practiced make classrooms very different than they are where traditional teaching is practiced. In traditional teaching the teacher decides which topics to include, in what sequence, and in what ways. The teacher is the authority and students are the passive recipients. Conversely, students are central in the STS approach. Students generate their own questions rather than purely relying on the questions provided by others. Based on their own questions, student view their own previous understandings of the problem and issues.  Student-directed questions further serve to define problems, potential solutions, and actions need to resolve them. This enables students to see/ do science in the same way that scientists do. This makes science more meaningful, exciting, and appropriate for most students. The main goal of the STS approach is to achieve scientific literacy for all. It creates student-centered environments where students improve on their own ideas, raise questions, and undertake investigations. The STS approach starts with real world issues, and problems that related to students lives. Table 1 indicates the differences between students involved in an STS program and those in a traditional science program in terms of the attitude domain

Table 1: Contrast between STS Programs and Traditional Science Programs in terms of the Attitude Domain



Students continually offer ideas

Students have few original ideas

Students interest increases from grade level to grade level and in specific courses

Student interest in science declines at all grade levels

Students become more curious about the material world

Science seems to decrease curiosity

Students see their teacher as a facilitator/guide

Students see their teacher as a purveyor of information

Students see science as a way of dealing with problems

Students see science as information to learn



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