Would YOU want to talk to a scientist at a party? : Students attitudes to school science and science

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1 Would YOU want to talk to a scientist at a party? : Students attitudes to school science and science Judith Bennett Sylvia Hogarth Department of Educational Studies Research Paper 2005/08 7

2 Would YOU want to talk to a scientist at a party? : Students attitudes to school science and science. Judith Bennett Sylvia Hogarth Contact details Dr Judith Bennett Department of Educational Studies University of York York YO10 5DD Tel: University of York ISBN: Department of Educational Studies University of York 8

3 This report should be cited as: Bennett, J. and Hogarth, S. Would you want to talk to a scientist at a party?: Students attitudes to school science and science. Department of Educational Studies, The University of York. York: University of York. An electronic version of the report, including the Attitudes to School Science and Science (AS 3 ) instrument may be accessed at Copyright The University of York, UK, and the authors of the report hold the copyright for the text of the report, including the Attitudes to School Science and Science (AS 3 ) instrument. The authors give permission for users of the report to display and print the contents of the report for their own non-commercial use, providing that the materials are not modified, copyright and other proprietary notices contained in the materials are retained, and the source of the material is cited clearly following the citation details provided. Otherwise users are not permitted to duplicate, reproduce, re-publish, distribute, or store material from the report without express written permission. 9

4 CONTENTS Acknowledgements Summary Page i-ii 1 Introduction and background 1.1 Why look at attitudes to science? Difficulties with research into attitudes Implications for work on attitudes to science The aims of the study How the study attempted to address potentially problematic issues 6 2 The development of the research instrument, the Attitudes to School science and science (AS 3 ) inventory 2.1 The Views on Science-Technology-Society 7 (VOSTS) study 2.2 Overview of steps involved in the development and 7 validation of the research instrument 2.3 Identification of strands to be explored Composition of disposition statements Gathering of free responses to disposition 9 statements 2.6 Categorisation of free responses Development and validation of trial fixed- response 11 items 2.8 Production, use and validation of trial fixedresponse 12 version of instrument 2.9 Post-trial modification of instrument Limitations of the fixed-response instrument 13 3 The main data collection 3.1 Details of the sample Methods of quantitative analysis Storage of the original data 18 4 Overview of findings 4.1 Introduction Overview of data by age Overview of data by gender Overview of data by ability Overview of data on teacher assessment of students attitudes 24 5 Detailed findings 5.1 Introduction Significant findings by age Significant findings by gender Significant findings by ability Teacher assessment of attitudes 58 7

5 6 Synthesis of findings 6.1 Pen portraits of particular groups of students Attitudes and age Attitudes and gender 67 7 Conclusions and recommendations 7.1 Significance of the study Key findings Recommendations 71 APPENDICES 1 The disposition statements 73 2 The attitudes to school science and science (AS 3 ) instrument 3 Sample data 3.1 Gender balance by year/stage 3.2 Ability balance by year/stage 3.3 Teacher assessment of attitude by gender and year 4 Bar charts showing percentage distribution of responses by year, gender and ability for questions A01 to A11 and B01 to B14 5 Response distributions by year combining gender, ability and attitude scores for questions A01 to A11 and B01 to B14 expressed as percentages 6 Chi-squared values for year/stage combining gender, ability and attitude data for questions A01 to A11 and B01 to B14 7 Chi-squared values for gender combining year/stage, ability and attitude data for questions A01 to A11 and B01 to B14 8 Chi-squared values for ability combining year/stage, ability and attitude data for questions A01 to A11 and B01 to B14 9 Scattergram of relationship of student attitude (teacher rated) and student responses for particular questions REFERENCES 87 8

6 List of tables and figures Tables Page Table 2.1 Stages in the development and validation of the 7 research instrument Tables The disposition statements 9 Table 2.4 Example of a free-response item 10 Table 2.5 Example of format for trial phase multi-choice items 11 Table 2.6 Example of final format for multi-choice items 14 Table 2.7 Sample free responses to disposition statements 15 Table 3.1 Distribution of sample by year/age 16 Table 3.2 Ability measures used 17 Table 3.3 Ability and gender balance by year/stage 17 Table 3.4 Attitudes scores assessed by teachers by year 17 Tables Second level responses to items where there was a significant difference in relation to age Tables Second level responses to items where there was a significant difference in relation to gender Table 5.52 Relationship of student attitude (teacher rated) and 59 student responses for particular questions Tables Characteristics of male and female students with respect to attitudes to school science and science outside school (the pen portraits ) Tables Responses for interest in biology, chemistry and 66 physics Table 6.8 Percentages choosing to admit that they don t know enough to make an informed choice 69 Figures Page Figures Percentages of agree responses to items (by age) 20 Figures Percentages of agree responses to items (by 21 gender) Figures Percentages of agree responses to items (by 23 ability) Figures Percentage responses to items where there was a significant difference in relation to age Figures Percentage responses to items where there was a significant difference in relation to gender Figure 6.1 The distribution of Agree percentages for those 65 items related to attitude to science as a whole that showed significant variations in Agree, Neither agree nor disagree and Disagree Figure 6.2 The distribution of Agree percentages for those 66 items about the three areas of science Figure 6.3 Percentage of pupils agreeing with the If I had a choice I would study option. 68 9

7 Acknowledgements We would like to thank the Salters Institute for their sponsorship of this study. A number of people have helped with the gathering and analysis of the data, and particular thanks are due to: John Ellis of Hanley Castle School in Hereford; Amanda Killip, formerly of The Wensleydale School in North Yorkshire; students on the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course at the University of York during and ; and Vicky Hames and Helen Parker at the University of York. 7

8 SUMMARY The content of the report This report describes the development of a new instrument, the Attitudes to School Science and Science (AS 3 ) instrument, and presents the findings of a survey undertaken to gather baseline data from students aged 12, 14 and 15/16. The Attitudes to School Science and Science (AS 3 ) instrument The study described in the report involved three main phases undertaken over a period of five years from The first phase involved the initial development of the instrument ( ). The second phase involved the piloting and refining the instrument ( ), with the main data collection taking place in 2003, and the analysis and writing of the report taking place in The instrument consists of 25 items, eleven relating to school science (Strand A) and the remaining 14 to science outside school (Strand B). Examples items are: Science lessons are among my favourite lessons (Strand A), and I would like a job involving science (Strand B). Respondents are required to state whether they agree, neither agree nor disagree, or disagree with the item statements (first level responses), and then indicate their reasons for their response (second level responses) from around ten options. These second level responses draw on the students own words, and were developed from free-responses to items in the inventory provided by students in the development phase of the instrument. For example, explanations of choices for I would like a job involving science include: There are good jobs you can do with science, and Science causes too many problems in the world. The instrument was developed by a group consisting of university-based science educators and school science teachers, and incorporated and extensive pilot phase with careful checks on reliability and validity. The sample The instrument was used to gather data from 280 students in four mixed-sex state schools in England. 104 students were aged 12, 78 aged 14 and 98 aged 15/16. The group overall contained 136 males and 144 females. The majority of the group consisted of middle or upper ability students, as judged by their marks on external tests (Standard Assessment Tests, SATs, taken by students at age 11 and age 14) or projected final grades in external examinations (the General Certificate of Secondary Education, GCSE, taken by students aged 16). The analysis of the data Data were entered onto an SPSS database (formerly the Statistical Package for Social Sciences). Data were interrogated for significant differences in patterns of responses by age, gender and ability. The report contains full details of those items where significant differences emerged. The data were also used to construct pen portraits of particular groups of students, characterising their chief characteristics in relation to their attitudes to school science and science outside school. These groups were male students and female students in each of the target age groups. 8

9 The findings Nine of the twenty-five items showed significant differences in relation to the age of the students. These included: Science lessons are amongst my favourite lessons, My science teachers make me more interested in science, If I had a choice I would study biology, If I had a choice I would study chemistry, If I had a choice I would study physics, I would like a job involving science and Science in blamed for things that are not its fault. Eight of the twenty-five items showed significant differences in relation to the gender of the students. These included If I had a choice I would study biology, If I had a choice I would study chemistry, If I had a choice I would study physics, Science can help to solve problems, It is important for this country to have well-qualified scientists and It is important to promote this country as a scientific nation. There were no significant findings in relation to students academic ability. The most significant finding of the study is the Year 9 (age 14) dip. Attitudes are shown to decline most sharply between the ages of 12 and 14, i.e. the early years of secondary schooling. In some instances, this is followed by a slight improvement at age 15/16. The study has confirmed that, overall, positive attitudes to science decline with age. It provides additional evidence to demonstrate female students attitudes to both school science and to science outside school were more negative than those of male students at age 12, and became increasingly so over the period of secondary age schooling. The second level responses reveal that there are shifts in patterns of responses as students mature. For example, in responses to It would be good to have a job as a scientist, though positive responses declined, those responding positively at ages 15/16 were more likely to say that they believed scientists could change the world for the better, whereas younger students simply wanted to work in a laboratory. The second level responses also reveal that, as they mature, young people become less prone to holding a somewhat black and white view of the world. Finally, the secondlevel responses demonstrate that female students are less sure of their views than male students and more likely to admit they do not have sufficient knowledge to make an informed choice when responding to items on the instrument. The study provides some evidence to suggest that attitudes to science outside school may be more positive than attitudes to school science. In particular, students responses indicate that they see some aspects of science as being quite important: it can help solve problems (e.g. environmental and social problems), it makes an important contribution to the wealth of the nation, and that the nation needs wellqualified scientists. However, whilst recognising these more general aspects, the response many young people make to science at the personal level is not for me. Conclusions and recommendations Several features of the study point to the need for a re-examination of science courses in the early years of secondary education, i.e. for students aged (Key Stage 3 in England and Wales). Firstly, the decline in attitudes is sharpest over this period. Secondly, there is a strong suggestion that what their teachers do and what they experience in their science lessons has a strong impact on students during this period. In particular, students like a variety of activities in lessons, activities which make them think, and experiences which show them how the science they are studying relates to the outside world. 9

10 1 Introduction and background 1.1 Why look at attitudes to science? What sorts of views might a class of sixteen-year-olds have about science? Here is a selection of comments from students involved in the study undertaken for this report. We use science for everything. We ARE science. Science is important because modern society is built entirely around the scientific advances of recent centuries. Science causes problems in the first place, so how can it get rid of them? Would YOU want to talk to a scientist at a party? Most people involved in science education would probably be very pleased if any sixteen-year-old they knew made one of the first two comments. Sadly, it is the case that far too many young people are likely to have more empathy with the last two comments. Such comments also serve only to reinforce the considerable disquiet felt in the science education community and beyond over the numbers of students taking science subjects, particularly chemistry and physics, in post-compulsory education in a number of countries. It would seem that there is widespread disenchantment amongst young people, who are voting with their feet and turning away from science when they have a choice. In England and Wales, for example, data from public examination entries show that the percentage of young people choosing to study only science subjects or science and mathematics subjects at age 16+ (the point of choice) fell from 29.6% to 15.3% between 1980 and Such a situation poses a number of questions. What is it about science that seems to make it so unappealing to so many young people? How do students feelings about school science compare with their feelings about science more generally? What action, if any, could or should be taken to alter the situation? In looking for possible answers, attention has turned to exploring students attitudes to science. Such work has a number of attractions. It has the potential to offer insights into the situation, and to explore how attitudes may be influenced by knowledge or lack of knowledge, with a view to identifying intervention strategies to remedy the latter situation where appropriate. Research into attitudes also offers the opportunity to evaluate the impact of intervention strategies. Finally, from a more theoretical perspective, it can contribute to the psychological literature on attitudes and the construction of attitude instruments. However, there are a number of problems associated with work on attitudes. It is clear from looking at the literature that concern about students attitudes to science is nothing new. As early as the 1920s, when science was in its infancy as a school subject, worries were being expressed about the way in which young people were responding to science, with interest and activity in the area reaching a peak in the 1970s. From then onwards, using the numbers of papers published as an indicator, work in the area appeared to have declined. This decrease in frequency may be explained by a mix of practical and educational factors. The relentless pace of reform in the last fifteen years has meant effort has had to be focused elsewhere. There is also a sense of the seeming intractability of some of the questions involved. What is meant by attitudes? How might they be measured? What could, or should, be done with the information obtained? Moreover, this intractability appears to be coupled with an inevitability in the answers, with newer studies simply confirming the same general conclusions of earlier work, and any recommendations arising from such work appearing to do little to remedy the situation. Despite this, it is clear that students attitudes to science contribute significantly to the low levels of participation in science at the postcompulsory level and, as such, cannot be ignored. 7

11 1.2 Difficulties with research into attitudes A number of concerns have been raised and criticisms levelled at work on attitudes in science education. These have been well-documented (e.g. Gardiner, 1975; Ormerod and Duckworth, 1975; Schibeci, 1984; Munby, 1990; Ramsden, 1998; Osborne et al. 1998; Simon, 2000; Osborne et al., 2003). The principal difficulties associated with attitude research are: a lack of precision with definitions of key terms; a failure to draw on ideas from psychological theory; a lack of consensus over what data should be gathered; a lack of standardisation of instruments used to gather data; inappropriate instrument design, analysis and interpretation; failure to address matters of reliability and validity appropriately; a lack of appreciation of ethical considerations. Problems associated with the definition of key terms It is clear from reading accounts of different studies about attitudes to science that different interpretations have been placed on the terms attitude and science. One issue concerns the use of science as an umbrella term to encompassing biology, chemistry and physics (and possibly other areas). Earlier work (for example, Kelly, 1986) has demonstrated that students respond differently to the different disciplines within science, suggesting that any instrument designed to gather data on attitudes needs to explore responses to each of the sciences separately. The matter of where students experience science and how this influences their attitudes also needs to be considered. For most students, much of their formal experience of science is likely to come about through their science lessons at school, where they will engage in a variety of activities structured in such a way as to give them some appreciation of scientific concepts and methods of scientific enquiry. Outside school, students may also elect to participate in a number of different activities or hobbies which could be classed as scientific. In addition, they will certainly receive a variety of messages about science from sources such the media, books, and their friends and relatives. These messages will relate to who scientists are, what sorts of jobs they do, how they behave, and what effects scientific activity has on everyday life. Thus students disposition towards science will be influenced by a variety of experiences within and outside school, suggesting that any instrument designed to gather data on attitudes needs to explore responses in each of these two key areas. Although there are indications that students are more favourably disposed towards science outside school (or certain features of science outside school) than science itself (Osborne et al., 1998), this aspects does not appear to have been explored in any detail in attitudes studies. Where the term attitude has been employed, it is generally though not exclusively - been used to encompass some dimension of students feelings about the science they encounter and, possibly, how these feelings relate to their knowledge of science and how they may influence behaviour. However, as Gardner (1975) has pointed out, the term attitude is used in two different ways with reference to science. He makes the distinction between attitudes to science and scientific attitudes. The former refers to the views and images young people develop about science as a result of influences and experiences in a variety of different situations. The latter is more closely associated with scientific method or, in Gardner s words, styles of thinking which encompass skills related to the undertaking of practical work, and other more general 8

12 dispositions towards the beliefs and procedures of science. (A more detailed consideration of scientific attitudes may be found in Gauld and Hukins, 1980). In Gardiner s terms, concern about attitudes in science lies essentially in the area of attitudes to science. A further complication arises from the use of different terminology in studies covering much of the same ground. Thus, for example, information on attitudes to science can be found in studies of students interest in science, their views of science, the images they hold of science and their motivation to study science. (A fuller account of this aspect of attitude research may be found in Ramsden, 1998). The contribution of psychological theory The problems described in the preceding two paragraphs point to the necessity of any instrument claiming to measure attitudes working with a very clear definition of what the term is being taken to mean. Here, definitions from psychological theory are very helpful. For example, Oppenheim (1992) discusses the problem of definition in detail and concludes:... attitudes are normally a state of readiness or predisposition to respond in a certain manner when confronted with certain stimuli... attitudes are reinforced by beliefs (the cognitive component), often attract strong feelings (the emotional component) which may lead to particular behavioural intents (the action-tendency component). (p175) In other words, attitudes are a function of what you know, how you feel about what you know, and how this influences your likely behaviour. The literature on psychological theory also points out that attitudes cannot be observed, but need to be inferred, and that establishing links between attitude and behaviour can be problematic. This is because behaviour can be influenced by a variety of views and motivations. For example, an individual student may express a positive response to science in a written instrument, yet not engage in behaviours which reflect this due to peer pressure and fear of appearing uncool. The key message which emerges from psychological theory is that data need to be gathered in a variety of areas to yield meaningful insights on attitudes. The nature of the data to be gathered Research into attitudes to science is characterised by lack of consensus over what data should be gathered. Whilst there is general agreement that data needs to be gathered in a number of areas (or attitudinal constructs ), and a fairly high degree of consistency in the technique used to gather data, there is considerable variation in the areas explored within attitude instruments. A typical attitude instrument takes the form of a pencil-and-paper, fixed response questionnaire, where respondents are invited to indicate their position with respect to certain statements. These commonly take the form of Likert-scale items, i.e. the respondent is presented with a statement such as Science causes more problems than it solves, and invited to say whether they strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement. Other examples of pencil-and-paper tests include Thurstone scales and semantic differential scales. (Further details of these may be found in Bennett, 2003). Osborne et al. (2003), in reviewing a range of attitude instruments, found that they were likely to explore students responses in a range of areas drawn from those listed below: the perception of the science teacher; anxiety towards science; the value of science; self-esteem in science; 9

13 motivation towards science; enjoyment of science; attitudes of peers and friends towards science; attitudes of parents towards science; the nature of the classroom environment; achievement in science; fear of failure on course. (p1054) Fixed-response instruments, such as those using Likert-type scales, have the advantage of generating data that is comparatively easy to process through assigning numerical values to responses. However, their usefulness is limited to exploring the nature of the problem. The need to look for possible explanations points to approaches which draw on qualitative methodologies, though there are comparatively few examples of studies which gather data through interviews or focus groups, possibly due to the higher time demands involved in gathering and analysing data. A further complicating factor in attitude research is that many of the studies reported are small-scale, undertaken by single researchers (often teachers) and involving the development of new instrument tailored to the specific needs of the situation. This proliferation of instruments, coupled with a lack of standardisation in content and approach, makes comparisons between studies problematic. Inappropriate instrument design, analysis and interpretation Two particular problems with attitude instruments concern the nature of individual items in the instrument and what is done with the data as a whole. There are numerous examples of individual items on instruments which may confuse respondents and gather data which is difficult to interpret. For example, even asking students to indicate how strongly they agree (or disagree) with a statement such as I enjoy science may well cause students problems if they enjoy, say, chemistry and physics, but do not like biology. Additional problems may be caused by analysis procedures. For example, it is not uncommon to assign numerical values to Likert-type scales in order to produce some form of score on an instrument. However, as Gardiner (1975) points out: If this score is to be meaningful, it should faithfully reflect the respondent s position on some well-defined continuum. For this to happen, the items within the scale must all relate to a single attitude object. A disparate collection of items, reflecting attitude to a wide variety of attitude objects, does not constitute a scale and cannot yield a meaningful score (p12) Thus simply adding up scores on a variety of items relating to different attitude constructs is an inappropriate way of analysing data and, as such, cannot be interpreted with any confidence. The implications of this for designing an attitude instrument are that items need to be carefully designed and trialled, and that due consideration needs to be given to appropriate strategies for analysing data. Reliability and validity issues Problems to do with reliability and validity stem from a variety of sources, including lack of precision in the definition of key terms and inappropriate instrument design and interpretation. For example, failure to separate science into biology, chemistry or physics raises questions about the validity of the data interpretation which component of science do students have in mind when they are making their responses? There are also issues to do with reliability of data. Many studies assume 10

14 that attitudes are sufficiently stable for measurements only to be needed at one point in time. Yet such an approach is ignoring the message from psychological theory that there is a cognitive component to attitudes. Ethical considerations The issue of attitudes and behaviour links to ethical consideration in attitude research, an area which has received rather less attention than might be expected. Generally people worry about attitudes because they want to change either the attitudes or the associated behaviour. Many of the studies on attitudes to science have been undertaken by concerned individuals or small groups of people who aim to provide their students with what they perceive to be an improved experience of science. Though such work is worthwhile, it does not always take account of the fact that views on what might constitute a positive attitude to science, in some areas at least, will involve value-judgements, and could be open to debate. For example, few people are likely to take issue with the aim of fostering a more positive attitude to science in girls through the use of images of female scientists, or using science lessons to promote an attitude of respect for living things. However, there would be considerably less consensus about the aim of promoting more positive attitudes to the impact of industry on society, as this could be perceived as the indoctrination of a particular set of values. 1.3 Implications for work on attitudes to science The well-documented difficulties associated with work on attitudes pose a number of challenges for any new work in the area. Two questions are particularly pertinent here. Will anything new be gained by another study on students attitudes to science? If the answer is yes, what form should the study take? Neither of these questions is easy to answer. Despite the criticism of work in the area, at the broad, brush-stoke level, the findings over several decades have been remarkably consistent, with later studies simply confirming earlier findings which demonstrate there is a widely held perception amongst young people that science is not relevant to the lives of most people, that science causes social and environmental problems, that science subjects are difficult, that science is more attractive to males than females, that interest in science decreases over the years of secondary schooling, and that more negative views are associated with the physical sciences rather than the biological sciences. Thus a new study runs the risk of simply adding to this evidence without producing any new insights. The view taken by the authors of this report is that there are three good reasons for undertaking a new study. Firstly, much of the evidence on students attitudes to science emerged from studies undertaken a number of years ago, and curriculum provision has changed both in structure and content in the intervening period. For example, in England and Wales, all students now study science up to the age of sixteen, much more is now done to stress the relevance of science to everyday life, and practical work now has a much stronger investigative emphasis. Secondly, many of the earlier studies present descriptive information documenting the problem with attitudes, and comparatively few have gone beyond this to probe for possible explanations. A study of Canadian senior high school students views on links between science, technology and society, the VOSTS study (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1989) appeared to offer a promising approach which would enable both descriptive and explanatory data to be gathered. Finally, the suggestion that students respond more positively to science outside school that school science is certainly one that needs further probing, as teachers and others involved in science education are far better placed to influence the messages students receive about science in science lessons than outside school. 11

15 Turning to the second question, what form should a new study take?, there are conflicting messages from the literature. On the one hand, criticism has been directed at the plethora of instruments which have been used, suggesting that it would be unhelpful to develop yet another instrument. On the other, aspects of many of the instruments which have been developed have been criticised in terms of their design, use and limitations, suggesting a new instrument which attempted to address these criticisms where feasible would be helpful. The view taken by the authors of this report was that the benefits of designing a new instrument outweighed the drawbacks. 1.4 The aims of the study The study had three principal aims when originally conceived: to design an instrument to enable data to be gathered on students affective responses, or attitudes, to science; to use the instrument to gather baseline data from schools students aged 11, 14 and 16; to use the instrument to explore the effects of curriculum intervention strategies. Within this, it was planned that the instrument would designed such that it would go beyond simply gathering large amounts of quantitative data to describe attitudes, and also yield insights and explanations for attitudes held. This report describes the development of the instrument and presents the baseline data gathered. 1.5 How the study attempted to address potentially problematic issues It is clear from the discussion in Section 1.2 that there are a number of issues and problems to be addressed when gathering data on attitudes to science. Solutions to some of these (such as the design of items on an instrument) are relatively straightforward as they are within the control of the researcher, whilst others are more problematic, often because possible solutions require a much greater level of resource than that likely to be available for a study on attitudes to science. For example, designing a study which would gather both quantitative and qualitative data on knowledge, affective responses and behaviour (the three components of attitude) from a sufficiently large number of respondents to make reliable and valid claims would require an enormous input of time and incur considerable expense. The strategies adopted by the research team to address potentially problematic issues are summarised below and described in more detail in Section 2. The instrument was designed such that information could be gathered separately on responses to on biology, chemistry and physics. The instrument was designed such that information was gathered separately on responses to school science and responses to science outside school. The development of the instrument drew on the approach employed in an earlier large scale study of students views about aspects of science, the Views on Science Technology and Society (VOSTS) study (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1989 and 1992). A number of steps were incorporated into the design phase to address reliability and validity issues. 12

16 2 The development of the research instrument, the Attitudes to School Science and Science (AS 3 ) inventory 2.1 The Views on Science-Technology-Society (VOSTS) study The approach to the development of the instrument drew on that adopted in the Views on Science-Technology-Society (VOSTS) study, which was undertaken in Canada in the late 1980s to document the views of upper high school students (aged 16-17) on science-technology-society topics (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1989). In essence, the VOSTS approach involved the empirical development of a fixed response item pool based on views expressed by the students. This was achieved through presenting students with a series of statements on aspects of science, technology and society, and inviting free responses. Common themes within these responses then formed the basis of categories for the fixed-response version of the instrument. An attraction of the approach was that the options in the fixed-response instrument drew on the words of the students. The original report of the VOSTS study (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1989) focused on the development of the instrument, with only limited analysis of the data taking place. Since its inception, considerable interest has been shown in the work, with the instrument being used, or modified for use, in a number of settings (including the USA, Spain and South Africa) and with a range of groups, including university students and trainee teachers (see, for example, Schoneweg et al., 1995; Vázquez and Manassero, 1997; Zoller et al., 1990; Bennett et al., 2001). Subsequent discussion in the literature has also focused on techniques for analysing the data gathered (see, for example, Rubba et al., 1996; Vázquez-Alonso and Manassero-Mas, 1999). 2.2 Overview of steps involved in the development and validation of the research instrument The study involved three main phases undertaken over a period of five years from The first phase involved the initial development and refinement of the instrument, a process which took approximately two years ( ). The second phase involved piloting and refining the instrument over a period of about a year ( ), with the main data collection taking place in 2003, and the analysis and writing of the report taking place in The development and validation of the research instrument took place in seven steps. These are summarised in Table 2.1, and explained more fully below. Table 2.1: Stages in the development and validation of the research instrument Stage Year Procedure of project 1 1 Identification of strands to be explored 2 2 Composition of disposition statements 3 2 Gathering of free responses to disposition statements 4 2 Categorisation of free responses 5 2 Development and validation of trial fixed-response items 6 3 Production, use and validation of trial fixed-response version of instrument 7 4 Post-trial modification of instrument 13

17 2.3 Identification of strands to be explored The first step in the design of the instrument was to identify the areas to be explored in order to obtain a measure of students attitudes to science. These areas were identified through a combination of a search of the literature and informal interviews with students themselves. The interviews were conducted by two teachers who each talked to groups of approximately six students in three of the classes they taught in the target age range, i.e. students aged 11, 14 and 16. Students were asked to describe the sorts of things that influenced their views of science both in school and beyond. The areas which emerged from this process included: responses to science lessons (teacher effects, views of particular activities); views of the social implications of science gained through experiences in school science lessons; views of the social implications of science gained through experiences outside school; views of teacher characteristics; views of learning situations in science lessons; views of the influence of peers and family; views of science as presented in the media; views of scientists and the way they work; views about science as a male pursuit. Initially, it was decided to try and develop an instrument which would explore each of these themes. However, it rapidly became apparent such an instrument would need to contain a very large number of items and, as such, would realistically only be able to gather descriptive data rather than yield explanations. It was therefore decided to gather data in two main areas: responses to school science and responses to science outside school. 2.4 Composition of disposition statements The next step involved the development of a series of statements relating to school science and science outside the classroom. Each of the statements was in a form which invited students to respond on a Likert-type scale (strongly agree/agree/neutral/ disagree/strongly disagree) to indicate their view, followed by a request to explain their reasons for holding their view. A considerable amount of effort was expended developing the statements. Initially, some several dozen statements were developed. However, closer inspection revealed that they divided into two groups. The first, and larger, group contained statements that which simply elicited a view of some sort. The second group contained statements (ultimately termed disposition statements) where the view they elicited was indicative of attitude to school science or science outside school. An example of the type of statement in the first group was Boys are more likely than girls to take science subjects. An example from the second group was Science lessons are amongst my favourite lessons. In the former case, a student might agree with the statement, but that agreement would give no indication of their disposition towards science. However, in the latter case, agreement with the statement in likely to indicate that the student was positively disposed towards science. It was therefore decided that the inventory would contain only items which were disposition statements. In order to identify these statements, three peer-validation meetings were held, two with teachers in schools and one at the University of York, involving academics, teacher trainers and others with an interest in science education. At these meetings, those attending were presented with a range of statements as originally developed, and asked (a) to identify those where they felt a positive response from students would be an indicator of a positive attitude to science, and (b) to add suggestions for additional statements which they felt it would be important to explore. As a result of this process, twenty-five disposition statements were identified. These 14

18 may be found in Tables 2.2 and 2.3, and are reproduced as Appendix 1 for ease of reference. Table 2.2: Dispositions towards school science A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 A11 Science lessons are among my favourite lessons. I try extra hard in science lessons. My science teachers make me more interested in science. The things we do in science lessons make me more interested in science. If I had a choice I would study biology. If I had a choice I would study chemistry. If I had a choice I would study physics. I enjoy reading science textbooks. What we do in science lessons is useful whatever you do after you leave school. Everybody should study all three science subjects (biology, chemistry and physics) up to age 16. When they have a choice, young people should be given particular encouragement to study science subjects. Table 2.3: Dispositions towards science outside school B01 B02 B03 B04 B05 B06 B07 B08 B09 B10 B11 B12 B13 B14 I like watching science programmes on the TV. I like reading about science in newspapers and magazines. News items about science interest me. I like reading science books other than school science textbooks. I would trust something a scientist said. I would like a job involving science. It would be good to have a job as a scientist. Science is blamed for things that are not its fault. Science has a positive influence on society. Science can help solve problems (e.g. environmental and social problems). Science makes an important contribution to the wealth of the nation. The Government should spend more money on scientific research. It is important for this country to have well-qualified scientists. It is important to promote this country as a scientific nation. In keeping with the VOSTS methodology, the gathering of free responses from students to these statements first involved developing the statements into statement pairs. Firstly, for each of the original statements in Tables 2 and 3, an opposite statement was composed which represented the opposite point of view. For example, the opposite statement for Science lessons are among my favourite lessons was Science lessons are amongst my least favourite lessons. These two statements became a statement pair. The VOSTS study had shown that the use of statement pairs to develop items enabled a wider range of views to be gathered for each item than the use of a single statement. 2.5 Gathering of free responses to disposition statements Once the statement pairs had been identified, the next step involved gathering responses to each statement from about 30 students in each target year group. This involved the following procedure: Six class sets in each of two schools were identified, two containing students aged 11, two students aged 14, and two students aged

19 One class set in each age group in each school was presented with statements concerning school science, and the other with statements concerning science outside school. The papers presented to students were such that they contained a random mix of statements in terms of order. This was to ensure that statements towards the end of the lists in Tables 2 and 3 gathered as many responses as earlier statements, rather than risking students running out of time or energy. Students were also given a 50:50 spilt of original statements and opposite statements to ensure no student had to respond to, for example, only a series of opposite statements. Table 2.4 provides an example of one of the items with which students were presented. 2.6 Categorisation of free responses Once all the free responses had been gathered and collated into responses for each statement pair, they needed to be categorised. This was achieved by two members of research team independently grouping the responses for each statement into common themes within three broad areas, agree, neither agree nor disagree, and disagree in relation to the disposition statement. This was then followed by meetings to discuss and agree the final categories of response, and the phrases which would be used to summarise each of the categories and therefore be incorporated into the fixedresponse item. These phrases drew as closely as possible on the words used by the students in their written responses. Generally, there was good agreement on the groupings, and no issues emerged which were particularly difficult to resolve. Table 2.4: Example of a free-response item B06 I would like a job involving science Tick the box which best fits your view. Strongly Agree Neither agree Disagree Strongly agree nor disagree disagree Why did you tick this box? Please explain in the space below. The teachers had, however, noted when they gathered the data that students - particularly less able students - had difficultly responding to many of the opposite statements, as these frequently involved double negatives. For example, a student might have to disagree with the statement Science lessons are amongst my least favourite lessons. One effect of this was that, during the data collection, a number of questions were asked of the teachers by the students to clarify what was required, and that these questions were almost exclusively linked to disagreeing with an opposite 16

20 statement. This confusion was confirmed by students written responses. Initially, the plan had been to follow the VOSTS methodology and put into the fixed-response instrument the statement from the statement pair which had elicited the widest range of responses from students. The experience of gathering the initial responses suggested that this was not the best approach in this study for two reasons. Firstly, as described above, the opposite statements caused considerable confusion and, secondly, (in contrast to the VOSTS study) there were almost no instances where the views gathered from responses to the opposite statements broadened the range of views gathered. The responses which students had made to the opposite statements were incorporated into the categories developed for the original statements. 2.7 Development and validation of trial fixed-response items Once categories had been agreed for responses to each statement, a trial fixedresponse item was developed. Table 2.5 shows an example of one of these items. Table 2.5: Example of format for trial phase multi-choice items B06 I would like a job involving science Circle the response which best fits your view. A B C D E F G H I X I AGREE because I enjoy science at school. I AGREE because scientists are generally well-paid. I AGREE because science makes the world a better place to live in. I AGREE because there are good jobs you can do with science. I NEITHER AGREE NOR DISAGREE because it depends on the sort of science involved in the job. I DISAGREE I find science boring. I DISAGREE because science causes too many problems for the world. I DISAGREE because scientists don t get very well-paid. I DISAGREE because science is a job for a man. None of the above statements reflects my view which is: Typically, an item would have between 8 and 10 options for the fixed responses, containing a mix of agree, neither agree nor disagree and disagree options. This mix reflected the range of responses given by students, and varied from item to item. One additional response was added to each item in case students felt that none of the options presented to them adequately reflected their view. In that case, they could select the option, None of the above statements reflects my view which is, and indicate their view. 17

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