A longitudinal study investigating pupil attitudes towards their school science learning experiences from a gender perspective

Sharp, Gaynor Denise (2004). A longitudinal study investigating pupil attitudes towards their school science learning experiences from a gender perspective. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e885


The research aim was to challenge the belief that girls' access to and performance in science education is no longer problematic based on evidence of the continuing low uptake by girls of science courses post 16 and female participation in science related careers. The research hypothesised that affective factors were influential in this and explored through a longitudinal study how girls and boys experience science in Key Stages 3 and 4.

The initial literature review examined research into the relationships between attitudes and gender and the conceptualisation of these constructs. The study drew on this to survey 208 Year 7 and 8 pupils from three community schools about their views of their self-efficacy as science learners, their topic preferences and interest in science. A sub-sample of twenty pupils from each school was interviewed annually through to Year 9 to probe their perceptions of what influenced their experiences and affected their learning.

The data revealed that looking for some concept or construct of attitudes to explain science achievement was not productive to understand either achievement or how pupils feel positioned in relation to science. The second phase of the research, based on a social view of learning and knowledge, focused on 20 case studies of a sub-sample of pupils from one school as they studied science in years 10 and 11. Narrative accounts were derived to show how individuals react to common experiences in science and how this impacts their achievements and liking for science and their future engagement with it. This approach provides insights into attitudes as personal responses to lived experiences in school science and a more subtle view of gender mediation that emerges first from individual experiences out to common influences to reveal that there are no simple relationships between achievement, liking for and engagement in science.

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