Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Form 4 attitudes to science and the choice of a science and in particular physics in Form 5
    Doig, Graeme R. ( 1976)
    Although the more recent curriculum writers have stressed the importance of affective outcomes in science education, students who study physics come to enjoy it less. Also, the proportional and absolute enrolments in physics have continued to decline. A review of the research literature suggested that attitudes to science are a factor in the choice of science and physics study. Attitudes to the science oriented concepts science and physics, scientists, science career and science teacher are pervasively unfavourable. Furthermore, student perceptions of science and physics suggested that the physical sciences were avoided because of certain inherent characteristics (physical science traits) and the absence of humanitarian, social and freedom connotations (non-science traits). Several research studies implicitly supported the hypothesis that favourable attitudes to science oriented concepts and physical science traits were associated with a science study preference whilst favourable attitudes to non-science traits were associated with a non-science study preference. The purpose of the present study was to explicitly examine the assertion that form 4 student attitudes to the above three classes of concepts were associated with the preference to pursue a form 5 science subject and in particular physics. Two identical sets of research hypotheses were formulated for the preference to pursue Science versus No Science and Physics versus No Physics. A questionnaire was administered to 385 form 4 Victorian secondary students in August 1974. The questionnaire elicited student responses to twenty two concepts using a form of\the semantic differential (Osgood, Suci & Tannenbaum, 1957) and their form 5 study preferences. Student attitudes were determined using the D (distance) statistic for profile congruence (Osgood, Suci & Tannenbaum, 1957) using the marker concepts Things I Like and Things I Dislike. The DLike and DDislike concept profiles were separately subjected to a multivariate analysis of variance procedure (Clyde, Cramer & Sherin, 1966) with Expressed Preference for Form 5 Study and Sex as the independent variables. Within the former independent variable, there were two orthogonal contrasts. These were Science versus No Science and Science (Physics) versus Science (No Physics). The two contrasts were necessarily taken together for the set of Physics versus No Physics research hypotheses. In general, the results based on the DLike profiles supported the assertions that student attitudes to science oriented concepts and physical science traits were associated with the preference for a future science subject and in particular physics. However, student attitudes to non-science traits were not associated with the preference to avoid science and physics. The results based on the DDislike profiles were consistent but less pervasive than the DLike profile data. The substantial disparity in the number of significant findings for the DLike and DDislike profile data further suggested that subject choices are made on the basis of "likes" rather than "dislikes". The overall findings of the research investigation presented a tentative picture of subject choice. Prospective science science and in particular physics students have an affinity for ("likes") and their non-science counter-parts an indifference to (rather than "dislikes") science in general and the nature of the physical science curriculum. Furthermore, since such preference groups did not differ in their attitudes to non-science traits, it may be argued that prospective non-science students are indifferent to their actual subject choices. However, this argument could not be overstated. The implications of the research investigation are that attitudes to science (in general) and the nature of the physical science are an important factor in a future choice of science and in particular physics. If future physical science enrolments are to increase, then the attitudes of those students who avoid science and physics must be nurtured. This may be effected through incorporating additional dimensions into the physical science curriculum and the consideration of teacher behaviour on student attitudes to science.