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Title:A statewide examination of attitudes toward science among Illinois students in grades 5-12
Author(s):Summers, Ryan G
Director of Research:Abd-El-Khalick, Fouad
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Abd-El-Khalick, Fouad
Doctoral Committee Member(s):DeStefano, Lizanne; Osborne, Margery; Zhang, Jinming
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):science education
Abstract:The present study investigated precollege students' perceptions and attitudes about science, as well as their intentions regarding the continued study of science in the future. The central research questions were: "What is the landscape of Illinois students' attitudes toward science across their school experience?" and "To what extent do school characteristics, including the attributes of classroom teachers, influence student attitudes toward science across the state of Illinois?" To address these research questions, the first phase of this study involved the refinement and validation of a self-report student instrument, the US-ASSASS, which assessed student attitudes toward science based on a theoretical framework drawn from the theories of reasoned action and planned behavior. In the second phase of the study, a representative statewide sample of 1,442 students in grades 5-12 were surveyed about their attitudes toward science using a cross-sectional design. Cross-sectional design was ideal because it allowed data to be collected from students of various ages, and over a large geographical area yielding a wide variance among respondents (e.g., in terms of socioeconomic status). In an effort to allow for equal representation of students across the state, participant schools were selected randomly from each of six geographic regions identified in Illinois. Students completed the 59-item US-ASSASS, along with background items, online. Confirmatory factor analysis was computed using the 1,291 responses collected from students in grades 5 through 10. A five factor structure was refined that was consistent with the underlying theoretical model and the finalized 30-item instrument that demonstrated acceptable statistical fit with a RMSEA of 0.04, a CFI of 0.95, and a non-normed index of 0.95. In addition to student data, information was obtained from 65 of a total of 78 classroom sections and respective schools from which student data were collected. Teachers’ responses to the Science Teacher Survey, along with data compiled from the Illinois Report Card and the National Center for Educational Statistics, allowed for the consideration of several group-level variables (e.g., teacher education, school funding, and community type). These variables were systematically explored and used to create a multivariate multilevel model to characterize students' attitudes toward science and related factors. Inferential statistics, coupled with descriptive statistics, revealed that students’ attitudes toward science declined as they went up their grade levels. A final statistical model was computed from responses collected from students in grades 5-10 that portrays significant declines and other effects. However, the students in the sample who persisted in science until grades 11 and 12 reported high attitudes toward science according to the descriptive statistics presented. It is also positive to note that students' who reported high frequency of talking with family about school and/or a high self-perception of science ability, had improved scores on all US-ASSASS factors. Illinois students' decline in attitudes toward science, through grade 10, is consistent with prior literature, and suggests the need for future research to ascertain whether this decline is disproportionate for science, compared to other core subjects (e.g., language arts). Additionally the present study gives some legitimacy to the constructs proposed by the theories of reasoned action and behavior, and it is prudent for future efforts to establish the extent and consistency between students' intention to pursue science in the future and their future decisions to engage in science.
Issue Date:2016-04-07
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Ryan Summers
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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