Trapped between the two cultures

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Trapped between the two cultures urban college students' attitudes toward science
Dawson, Roy Edward
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215 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm


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College students -- Attitudes ( lcsh )
Science -- Study and teaching (Higher) ( lcsh )
Science -- Public opinion ( lcsh )
College students -- Attitudes ( fast )
Science -- Public opinion ( fast )
Science -- Study and teaching (Higher) ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 208-215).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Roy Edward Dawson.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Full Text
Roy Edward Dawson
A.A., Red Rocks Community College, 1975
B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1977
M.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1990
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation

2002 by Roy Edward Dawson
All rights reserved

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Roy Edward Dawson
has been approved
Michael Marlow
Brent Wilson


Dawson, Edward Roy (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Trapped Between the Two Cultures: Urban College Students Attitude Toward
Thesis directed by Professor Michael Marlow
Most Americans agree that science plays an important part in maintaining
our leadership role in economics, health, and security. Yet when it comes to
science and math we appear to be baffled. Only 25% of Americans understand the
process of science well enough to make informed judgment about scientific research
reported in the media (National Science Foundation, 1998). What is it that turns
Americans away from science? Is it our culture, schools, families, or friends? This
study investigates urban college students attitudes toward science to determine
what changes might promote increased participation in the questions, ethical
implications and culture of science. Volunteers completed a science questionnaire
which included multiple-choice and open-answer questions. The questions were
divided into the categories of individual characteristics, home/family, peers, and
school/teachers. The multiple-choice questions were analyzed with quantitative
statistical techniques. The open-answer questions were used to rate each students
attitude tow'ard science and then analyzed with qualitative methods. Thirteen
factors were significant in predicting science attitude but none of them, by itself,
explained a large amount of variation. A multiple regression model indicated that
the significant factors (in order of importance) were watching science television
with your family, having a father not employed in science, having friends who like
science, and imagining yourself to be a successful student. A hierarchical multiple
regression analysis indicated that the categories of individual characteristics, family,
and peers were all significant contributors to the models prediction of science
attitude. School environment/teachers did not add significant predictive power to
the model. The qualitative results indicated that the factors of (1) a students
previous experience in science classes and (2) the curriculum philosophy which his
or her science teachers employed appeared to be the most important factors in
determining a students feelings toward science. Outliers to the science attitude

interviewed to determine how they maintained a positive attitude toward science
when the profile predicted a negative attitude. These students appeared to be
resilient and it is not clear if resiliency is a way of defeating the profile, or if resilient
students incorrectly identified themselves as outliers to the profile.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Michael Marlow

To the memory of Walt

This project has truly been a village effort and I wish to thank a number of
villagers who have contributed above and beyond the call of duty. I could not have
completed this project without the moral and technical support provided by my
friend, partner, and wife Kathleen. She has read drafts, provided significant
literature, and kept us functioning as a unit -1 could not have asked for more. My
fathers inspiration lives with me even though he does not. He encouraged his
children to aggressively pursue education wherever we could find it thanks dad.
My mothers steadfast and sometimes stubborn support has never wavered.
The advice of Dr. Mike Marlow has had a significant impact on the project.
His moral support was instrumental in completing the dissertation. The kind and
gracious comments provided by Dr. David Armstrong at the University of Colorado
at Boulder kept me inspired through the lonely process of writing. He dedicated
many long hours to this project and I am extremely grateful for his thoughtful
insight. I am very thankful for the invaluable support from Dr. Marian Bussey of
the University of Denver for her advice on statistical procedures and data analysis.
I am also grateful for her friendship and the inspirational support which she
provided from the very beginning. I also wish to thank members of the University
of Colorado at Denver School of Education faculty who have made significant
contributions to the project and they include: Dr. Brent Wilson, Dr. Lyn Taylor,
and Dr. Alan Davis. I am grateful to Joan York who contributed many hours
struggling through early drafts of the entire manuscript. Her editorial and content
comments were always constructive and timely. Thanks go to my graduate school
cohorts, Julie, Susan, Connie, and Karen who generously provided input and
Many other friends and colleagues listened to this story and helped shape
its direction. If I miss someone it is because of my inherent senility and I
apologize. Dr. Rick Adams, Dr. Jill Bannon, Richard Pendelton, Dr. Barry Karlan,
Victoria Karlan, Mary Young, Dr. Beth Matway, Sue Habeck, Jennifer Helvik,
Scott Raile, Linda Dixon, Leo Bruderele, Gerald Audesirk, Teresa Audesirk and
the Woodbury gang.
Last, but not least, go thanks to all the participants who generously gave
their time and energy with the hope that science would become more accessible.

Figures ....................................................xiii
Tables ......................................................xiv
I. INTRODUCTION .............................................. 1
The General Problem..................................... 1
The Background of the Problem .......................... 3
The Theoretical Framework............................... 9
The Specific Problem .................................. 12
Research Questions .................................... 12
Methodology............................................ 14
Quantitative Methods............................ 14
Qualitative Methods............................. 15
Structure of the Dissertation ......................... 16
II. LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................... 18
Science and Society

The Two Cultures ................................. 18
Science Wars...................................... 22
History of Science Education in America ................. 24
Science Education before 1950 .................... 24
Science Education in the 1950s and 1960s .. .... 27
Science Education in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s... 32
Academism.................................. 36
Practicalism............................... 37
Reformism.................................. 37
Attitudes Toward Science ................................ 39
Individual Characteristics ....................... 42
Peers............................................. 45
Home Environment and Parents ..................... 45
Teacher and School Environment ................... 46
Teachers................................... 46
School Environment......................... 46
Summary ................................................. 48
III. METHODS .................................................. 50
Introduction ............................................ 50

Quantitative Methods
Participants ........................................ 51
Instrument .......................................... 52
Qualitative Methods......................................... 56
Questionnaire........................................ 56
Data Reduction................................ 56
Data Display.................................. 56
Conclusion Drawing and Verification........... 57
Coding........................................ 57
Internal Validity.................................... 58
External Validity ................................... 60
Pragmatic Validity................................... 60
Limitations and Trustworthiness...................... 61
Interviews.................................................. 62
IV. QUESTIONNAIRE RESULTS......................................... 63
Introduction ............................................... 63
Individual Characteristics ................................. 64
Home Environment and Parents ............................... 69
Peers ...................................................... 74

School Environment....................................... 82
Multivariate Analysis.................................... 92
Summary ............................................... 101
V. INTERVIEW RESULTS ......................................... 102
Biographies ............................................ 102
Fran ............................................ 102
Kristen ......................................... 104
Marrisa.......................................... 106
Cross-Case Analysis .................................... 107
School Experiences .............................. 107
Family Dynamics.................................. Ill
Individual Characteristics ...................... 112
Resiliency.............................................. 114
Summary ................................................ 115
VI. CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION................................ 119
Individual Characteristics ............................. 123
Family ................................................. 124
Peers................................................... 124

School Environment/Teacher
Summary ...................................... 135
A. WRITTEN QUESTIONNAIRE...................... 143
B. CONSENT FORM............................... 157
REFERENCES ........................................ 208

4.1 Do you think luck is more important in life than hard work? ........... 65
4.2. How much pressure do you feel you are under at school?................. 67
4.3. How successful are you as a student? .................................. 68
4.4. Gender................................................................. 70
4.5. Fathers Employment.................................................... 73
4.6. Does your family watch PBS?............................................ 76
4.7. Does you family watch science shows when they are on TV? .............. 77
4.8. Did your friends like science?......................................... 80
4.9. Did you enjoy science class when you were in elementary school? ....... 83
4.10. Did you think you were learning important things in science class in
elementary school?.................................................... 84
4.11. Do you remember your science teachers with positive or negative
feelings? ............................................................ 85
4.12. Did your science teachers encourage you in science or did they discourage
you, or in any way make you feel inadequate? ........................ 86
6.1 Quantitative results which predict a positive attitude toward science .... 122
6.2 Qualitative factors that influence positive attitudes toward science 126

3.1 Participant characteristics compared to institutional student population ... 53
3.2 Attitude toward science rubric .......................................... 54
3.3 Qualitative codes resulting from analysis of open-ended questions........ 59
4.1 Verbatim comments from open-ended questions that referenced
gender issues........................................................... 71
4.2 Verbatim student comments about the influence of their fathers science
background on their feelings toward science ............................. 75
4.3 Verbatim comments from students about their families influence on their
feelings toward science.................................................. 78
4.4 Verbatim comments from students about their peers influence on course
selection ............................................................... 81
4.5 Verbatim comments from students about teachers........................... 88
4.6 Verbatim comments from students about Progressive tradition science
activities participatory projects........................................ 90
4.7 Verbatim comments from students about Progressive tradition science
activities-lessons that apply to everyday life........................... 91
4.8 Verbatim comments from students about math .............................. 93
4.9 Verbatim comments from students concerning religious beliefs ............ 94

4.10 Verbatim comments from students about their past achievement in
science.................................................................. 96
4.11 Questionnaire data with significant results when considered with science
attitude................................................................. 97
4.12 Multiple regression predictors listed (in order) by Beta coefficients 99
4.13 Ordered group (hierarchical) multiple regression results............... 101
5.1 Comparison of intervieweesschool experiences........................... 108
5.2 Comparison of interviewees family dynamics............................. 109
5.3 Comparison of intervieweesindividual characteristics................... 110
5.4 Intervieweesprotective factors ........................................ 116
6.1 Comparison of questionnaire quantitative and qualitative results ....... 120
6.2 Profile for college students who exhibit a positive attitude toward
Science ................................................................ 130

The General Problem
The force of scientific and technological innovation is helping fuel and shape
the new economy, but its impact goes beyond. These investments have
surely paid off in higher paying jobs, better health care, stronger national
security, and improved quality of life for all Americans. They are critical to
Americas ability to maintain our leadership in cutting edge industries that
will power the global economy of the new century. (National Science
Foundation, 1998 (p. xviii)
William J. Clinton
The importance of science to our culture is clear to most Americans. Nearly
75% believe that the benefits of scientific research outweigh any potential harms
(National Science Foundation, 1998). Yet when it comes to science and math we
are as baffled (Wilson, 2000) as the docile congregation massed in a medieval
cathedral swayed by the Latin not understanding a word (Bragg, 1999). Only
20% of Americans imagine they are well-informed concerning new scientific
discoveries and the appropriate application of technology. Just 25% of us
understand the process of science well enough to be able to make quasi-informed

judgments about the basis of scientific research reported in the media (National
Science Foundation, 1998).
It would appear obvious that our culture is scientifically complex and will
become more so. Difficult choices about the future of the planet and therefore the
future of humans will depend on the ability of a democratic society to make
appropriate decisions that involve science and the science community. It is not the
scientist but the attorney or businessperson who frequently becomes the CEO in
industry or the elected politician. It is that baffled part of our society that will
determine the degree of genetic engineering that our culture will tolerate or the
extent of economic sacrifices that will be acceptable in order to reduce global
What is it that turns so many away from science? How is it that we enter the
work force, or higher education, with less than a positive attitude toward science
(and as a result feel alienated from the culture and community of science)? Is it our
culture, our schools, or how science is taught? Do we all have a story about a math
teacher? Or is it more personal than this? Is it possible that our families and friends
turn us away from science? In an attempt to determine what might be accomplished
in education to promote increased participation in the questions, ethics, and culture
of science this study will investigate attitudes and perceptions toward science of

urban college students not majoring in science.
The Background Of The Problem
Science and the humanities have not always been at odds. Indeed for Goethe
and Da Vinci there was probably no distinction between artful science and scientific
art (Stange, 1999) and it wasnt until science began to betray religion that the first
real falling out between science and society took place (Gore, 1998). Galileo was
tried by the Catholic Church in 1633 for his alleged connection with the astronomy
of Copernicus. Copernicus had earned the Churchs scorn by suggesting that the
Earth was not stationary, that the other planets did not revolve around the Earth, but
instead the Earth and the other planets revolved around the Sun. The Catholic
Church eventually forgave Galileo and Copernicus but not officially until 1992.
Science would again come in direct conflict with religion when it was suggested that
not only was the Earth not the center of the Universe but that humans were not
created by God but instead descended from ancient apes. Another courtroom would
provide the focus for this division between science and society. In 1925 John
Scopes, a substitute teacher, would be put on trial in Tennessee for teaching
evolution rather than creationism. Religion and society would win this battle but
eventually lose the war. The United States Supreme Court would, in due time, rule

that creationism is religion and not science and as such cannot be taught in a science
classroom (Epperson v. Arkansas (1998) 393 U.S. 97, Law Week 4017, 89 S. 266,
21 L. Ed 288). In a 1996 Gallop poll 47% of Americans agreed with the concept of
special creation of humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. A year later only
5% of the scientists polled from American Men and Women of Science agreed when
asked the same question (Scott, 2000).
Within our society there is also a less visual, but still emotional, division
between the humanities and the sciences. The most recent development that
exemplifies this division is illustrated by the denunciation of science by those in the
humanities who study the process of science. This criticism has its basis in the
postpositivist view originally described by Thomas Kuhn (1962). Kuhn believed that
the process of science was not as removed and distant from the biases of the
individual scientist as science would have us believe. Kuhn indicated that current
theories combined with previously taught information would prejudice how scientists
approach their discipline. Scientists biased by their prior knowledge and beliefs
would design their research in ways which would support the prevailing theories. A
scientific revolution would occur only after the accumulation of a large body of
information that refuted the current paradigms. For postpositivists, postmodernists,
and constructivists reality is a state constructed by the mind not perceived by it

(Wilson, 2000). If this approach is correct then according to the social researchers
no discipline (science or the humanities) has any greater claim to truth than any other
(Griffiths, 1995). The proponents of extremist postmodem/constructivist
philosophies have attacked the objectivity of the scientific process as an attempt to
cover up the fact that sciences real values are just a form of extreme capitalism
(Finneran, 1998). That the academy is bickering about what (or who) is more
important, science or art, is not new. In 1959 Sir Charles Snow in his lecture about
the Two Cultures pointed out that the literary intellectuals and scientists of the day
did not share much, if any, mutual admiration (Snow, 1964).
America has a culture which values science for its ability to improve our
standard of living and yet as individuals we are reluctant, or unwilling, or unable to
participate in the culture and community of science. It would appear as if many
Americans are trapped between the Two Cultures, swayed by the Latin- not
understanding a word (Bragg, 1999). It is possible that religion or the humanities has
turned many away from science. However, it is likely that science itself may also be
part of the problem. Why dont we understand science? Is it taught differently than
other subjects? Has the philosophy of science education and curriculum remained
the same?
Montgomery (1994) has characterized the different philosophical approaches

to science education as Academism, Practicalism, and Reformism. These traditions
have a complex interwoven history. At some point in the past each one has been
given precedence over the others by those in powerful positions. The Academist
tradition is probably the oldest tradition in Western culture. It embodied the study
of great people and great books. Early in the Academist tradition science was of
reduced importance compared to the arts. However, by the late 1800s science had
acquired the attribute of objectivity. This objectivity elevated science from being
just quaint and practical to a powerful method for determining how the planet
works. The original Academist tradition was replaced with the New Academism of
an objective science that was, at least in part, fueling the industrial revolution
(Montgomery, 1994).
In the Practicalist tradition science education is connected with the concerns
and needs of ordinary society. Unlike the elevated science of the New Academist
tradition the student will apply their knowledge to personal advancement from
within the currently established educational and cultural institutions
(Montgomery, 1994).
In general, the New Academist tradition has predominated science in higher
education for the last 125 years. The Practicalist tradition held dominance in
elementary and secondary education until the 1950s and was replaced with the New

Academist curriculum after the launch of Sputnik in 1957 (Montgomery, 1994).
How have students responded to the New Academist tradition in science education?
Students have described introductory science courses as confusing, aimless,
and as generally negative stimuli to career choice or selection of electives (National
Science Foundation, 1998). Indeed learning science for some students may involve
negative attitudes and feelings that discourage any further involvement in science
(Gogolin and Swartz 1992).
Cultural rifts between religion and science or confusing educational
philosophies will not by themselves impact our attitudes toward science. There must
be a means of transmitting these opinions and philosophies to the individual. The
most important vectors for transmitting this information will necessarily be focused
on those individuals and institutions that have the most influence in our lives. Our
families, our friends, our teachers, and our schools must all exert significant pressure
on our attitudes.
Over the last 20 years researchers in science education have investigated
attitudes toward science on the assumption that relationships exist between attitude
development and a number of variables that include achievement, intelligence,
gender, grade level, family factors, cultural backgrounds, peer influence, curriculum,
instruction, and many more. For reviews and meta-analysis of these studies see

Koballa (1988), Schibeci (1984), Weinburgh (1995), and George (2000). This
study is focused on how individual characteristics, peers, family/home environment,
and teachers/school environment might influence individual altitudes toward
The meta-analysis of attitude studies have been disappointing and few
conclusions about factors that affect attitude toward science are available (Koballa,
1988). Schibechi (1984) reviewed over 200 studies and was only able to list five
1. Sex appears to be an important variable, both alone and in interaction with
other variables.
2. The effects of particular science programmes [szc] on attitudes varies
considerably, there is no consistent set of results for this variable.
3. Home background and peer group variables are probably important, but
the influences are not direct.
4. Science must be divided up into physical and biological science.
Students attitudes to biological science appear generally to be more
favorable than to physical science.
5. Attitudes toward science appear to decline as school students move to
higher grades, (p. 46)
A few qualitative studies have also been attempted, but analysis of data has been
limited and results have been inconclusive (see Parker & Spink 1997; Johnson &
Whitenack, 1992).

Few attempts have been made to look at the interaction of these constructs
on attitudes toward science, and even fewer studies have included college students.
These young adults may be more characteristic of those individuals that the National
Science Foundation (1998) finds to be less than well informed about new scientific
discoveries and the appropriate use of technology. Compared to the 1970s and
1980s there is very little current work being done on determining what may influence
attitudes toward science. It appears as if these studies were abandoned for studies
that employed some type of science attitude instrument and a pre-test, intervention,
post-test experimental design. However, no clear patterns have emerged from any
of these studies that would indicate how the factors of peers, family, school, and self
concept (or the interaction of these factors) would affect the development of
attitudes toward science.
The Theoretical Framework
Attitude is a common term in everyday life; almost everyone has some idea
of what is meant by the word. However individual definitions probably do not
always coincide. Most often people think of attitudes in general terms: someone has
an attitude or that student has a bad attitude. It is important to note that attitudes
always have an attitude object about which there are feelings about or toward

(Koballa, 1988). Beliefs, on the other hand, reflect the information or knowledge
that a person has about an object. Unlike attitudes, beliefs can range from
descriptive to evaluative (Oskamp, 1977). You can believe, for instance, that
science is confusing but only 75% of the time sometimes (25% of the time) it is
fun. It appears to make sense that our feelings (attitude) are linked to our
knowledge (beliefs) (Koballa, 1988) but what about the concept of value? Rokeach
(1970) imagines that values are broader than attitudes or beliefs and lack a specific
object. Our culture or social class are responsible for many of our values (Koballa,
1988). Our distaste of another political party or respect for human life are examples
of values. Koballa (1988) claims that values are most important to educators
because relatively few values mediate a multitude of attitudes.
Values, beliefs, and attitudes are of no use if we do not act upon them.
Behavior and behavioral intentions determine actions. Behavioral intentions are a
personal estimate of how likely a particular behavior might be (Fishbein & Ajzen,
1975). Our intentions therefore, do not always make it absolutely certain that we
will perform any particular action. If asked we could probably estimate how likely it
will be that we carry through with our intentions. Behavior unlike intentions,
beliefs, values, and attitudes is directly observable.
This study will use the definition of attitude recommended by Koballa (1988)

and outlined by Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) where most investigators would
probably agree that attitude can be described as a learned predisposition to respond
in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner toward an attitude object.
Koballa (1988) also presented a workable model to represent the differences
between beliefs, attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behavior. This model
That a persons beliefs about an object determine how the person feels
towards the object (attitude). In turn, the attitude, mediated by values,
determines the persons behavior [sic] intentions with respect to the object.
Finally, these behavioral intentions influence, but do not completely
determine, how the person actually behaves toward the object (p. 121).
The attitude concept has escaped the nature-nurture controversy that has
plagued the concept of intelligence. There appears to be no one who does not agree
that attitudes are learned (Shrigley, 1983). Baron et al.(l977) as quoted in Shirgley,
Koballa, and Simpson (1988) wrote persuasively on attitude and learning:
Heroes may be bom, but bigots are clearly made. No one would seriously
suggest...that children sprang [s/c] from the womb with all the complex
attitudes they will later show as adults firmly in place. Rather, there is
virtually universal agreement that they acquire these reactions in precisely the
same manner they acquire other forms of behavior largely through a
prolonged period of learning (p. 667).
It is the science related behaviors of students that we are ultimately interested in
(Koballa, 1988). However, it is the acquiring (learning) of attitudes that may be
easiest to modify (Shrigley, 1983) because they are learned, and although they are

not momentarily transient, they are susceptible to change (Koballa, 1988).
The Specific Problem
This study will attempt to determine what factors affect the development of
attitudes toward science, how these factors may interact, and how attitudes toward
science may be modified. Rather than focusing primarily on students who have poor
attitudes toward science it might be instructive to determine, from students with
positive and negative attitudes toward science, what might have influenced their
beliefs toward science. Is it family, friends, individual characteristics, schools, a
combination of these, or none of these? If we can gain an understanding of what
factors are involved in the learning of attitudes toward science and how those
attitudes are modified then perhaps educators can help promote appropriate attitudes
toward science among all students.
Research Questions
What influences the learned predisposition (attitude) of some individuals to
consistently respond to science in a favorable or unfavorable manner and how can
attitudes toward science be modified?
1. For self-reporting college students not majoring in science, what influence

do family, schooling, peers, or individual characteristics have on attitude
toward science?
2. For self-reporting college students not majoring in science are any of the
individual factors within the categories of family, peers, self concept, and
schools more important in predicting attitudes toward science?
3. For self-reporting college students not majoring in science are any of the
categories of family, peers, self concept, and schools more important
than the others in predicting science attitude?
4. Based on interviews of atypical students (students who report positive
attitudes but have factors that would suggest negative influences), what
additional factors come into play when learners develop attitudes toward
5. Based upon aggregated survey findings and in depth interviews, what
constructive recommendations can be made to science educators, to help
students develop positive attitudes toward science?
This study employed a mixed-methodology research design to investigate
attitudes and perceptions toward science of college students not majoring in science.
Questionnaires and interviews were analyzed with a combination of quantitative and
qualitative methods.

Quantitative Methods.
To investigate the influence of family, peers, school, and individual
characteristics on attitudes toward science, an interview questionnaire was employed
(see Appendix A). This questionnaire was developed by Gogolin and Swartz (1992)
and was modified for this study to a written survey with an open and closed question
format. The written survey was used instead of the interview because the sample
size was of sufficient magnitude such that individual interviews would not be
possible. In addition the investigator is also the class instructor for the respondents
and I imagined that an anonymous questionnaire would promote fewer biased
responses. Participants were college students who have completed a general
education biology course with an emphasis in human biology and evolution at the
University of Colorado at Denver. The questionnaire includes 38 multiple-choice
and seven open-answer questions divided into the four areas of interest. A consent
form was provided and signed by each participant and each participant was given a
copy of their signed consent (see Appendix B). The study was approved by the
University of Colorado at Denver Human Subjects Research Committee (see
Appendix C).
The questionnaires were divided into five groups based on the students

attitude toward science. Sorting into the categories of positive/positive,
positive/negative, neutral, negative/positive, and negative/negative attitude toward
science was determined by analysis of the open-ended questions (see Table 3.1).
The responses were compared within each construct of individual characteristics,
peers, family, and school to determine if a difference exists between responses to
questions for individuals with different attitudes toward science. The questionnaires
were analyzed using simple percentages, frequencies, and correlations. Multiple
regression techniques were employed to determine the interaction between the
constructs of family/home, friends, individual characteristics, gender, and
teachers/schools. This information was utilized to compile a predictive science
attitude profile.
Qualitative Methods.
Open-ended questions from the questionnaire (see above) were analyzed by
qualitative methods. The data provided validity to the quantitative results via
triangulation and also provided insight into alternative theories about science attitude
development. This study employed the view of qualitative data analysis as described
by Miles and Huberman (1994) in which analysis consists of data reduction, data
display, and conclusion drawing/verification (p. 10).

In addition, interviews based on ethnographic techniques (Lancy 1993) were
conducted to obtain life histories and science histories from student volunteers who
identified themselves as outliers to the science profile (see above). These students
possess a favorable attitude toward science, but would not be predicted to do so by
the profile. These science histories were analyzed and cross-case analyzed (Miles &
Huberman, 1994) with the software package Nvivo to determine what these students
may have in common that allowed them to modify their predicted attitude toward
Structure of the Dissertation
In Chapter I the general problem of attitudes toward science is introduced
and a short review of the literature is provided. The theoretical framework of the
attitude concept is discussed and the specific research questions are stated along
with a brief description of the methods employed in the study. The literature review
in Chapter II will explore our cultural perceptions of the value of science, the
historical perspectives of science education in America, and a review of the science
attitude literature. How the study was conducted will be covered in Chapter III.
The development and delivery of the questionnaires and the quantitative and
qualitative data reduction techniques are described. Chapter IV presents the results

of the quantitative and qualitative portion of the questionnaire. These results include
correlations, Chi square, and multiple regression analysis. Also included are the
results of the qualitative analysis of the open-ended questions. Chapter V presents
the results from the cross-case analysis of the outlier interviews. A discussion of the
results and conclusions about the importance of the study are provided in Chapter
VI which also considers areas for further research.

This chapter will review the relevant literature concerning attitudes toward
science from both an individual and cultural perspective. American society has
engaged in quarrels with science from religious coalitions and the humanities in
general. These disputes will be explored through their interactions in courts of law
and through their themes in academic discourse.
Educational researchers have devoted much effort to determine what factors
influence student attitudes toward science. This work is based on the belief that
attitudes toward science are learned behaviors and as such can be modified. The
concept of attitude for this study will be defined and those constructs that appear to
have the most effect on the development of science attitudes will be explored.
Science and Society
The Two Cultures
The vanity of the sciences. Physical science will not console me for the
ignorance of morality in the time of affliction. But the science of ethics will

always console me for the ignorance of the physical sciences. (Pascal,
Pensee, Section II, No. 67.)
Two years after the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik had set American
science education on a revised track, Sir Charles Percy Snow delivered the now well
known Rede Lecture at Cambridge University. The 1959 Two Cultures lecture
referred to the separation of the thinking classes into two cultural camps (Bragg,
1999). The thinking classes were comparable in intelligence and social origin,
equally affluent, and the same race (Snow, 1964). Snow thought the literary
intellectuals of the time were being reactionary and that their anti-scientific prejudice
was the result of scientific illiteracy. Literary intellectuals are, Snow claimed,
natural Luddites (p.22). On the other hand Snow realized that scientists were
regarded shallowly optimistic and unaware of mans true condition(p. 5).
Snows ideas about the gulf between science and humanities were not original but
his lecture appeared to polarize the two sides. As Bragg (1999) pointed out for
much of the time since then we have lived in the Cold War of intellectual
confrontation, arts and sciences mutually deterrent, walled against each other(p. 32)
In the last half of the twentieth century Snows lecture may have polarized the
participating factions but the division between the arts and sciences is not a new one.
Determining the actual point in history in which art and science set out on

separate paths may be a difficult historical question but we do know that the library
at Ephesus probably did not separate math and science from the other arts (Stange,
1999). The first real falling out between science and society may have been the trial
of Galileo in 1633 (Gore, 1998). Gore also used the 1925 trial of John Scopes as an
example of the rift between science and the arts. Both of these trials were situations
in which science had come in direct conflict with prevailing religious beliefs. Galileo
was tried during the Inquisition for his alleged connection with Copernicus.
Copernicus had crossed religious doctrine by suggesting that the Earth revolved
around the Sun rather than the Earth being stationary and the other planets revolving
around it. Scopes on the other hand was on trial for allegedly teaching Darwins
evolution as opposed to Christian Creationism.
The influence of religion on the debate continues to this day. Many who
would attempt to reconcile the division between science and art draw upon religion.
Anthony OHear (2000) in his discussion of Snow and his detractors is surprised that
neither side of the dispute is prepared to accept that they may be turning to their
own favored discipline to supply the gap left by the passing of religion. E.O. Wilson
(2000) on the other hand, in his plea for consilence (unification) between the arts and
sciences, appears to be asking us to leave religion, as we know it, behind:
Once we get over the shock of discovering that the universe was not made
with us in mind, all the meaning the brain can master, and all the emotions it

can bear, and all the shared adventure we might wish to enjoy, can be found
by deciphering the hereditary orderliness that has borne our species through
geological time and stamped it with the residues of deep history. Reason will
be advanced to new levels, and emotions played in potentially infinite
patterns. The true will be sorted from the false, and we will understand one
another very well, the more quickly because we are all of the same species
and possess biologically similar brains (p. 43).
Despite the call for unity there are those that would contend that science is
not worthy of becoming equal with the humanities and there are scientists that feel
bitterly the unfairness of the perceived dichotomy:
...there are people in the arts and humanities who are proud of knowing very
little about science and technology, or about mathematics. The opposite
phenomenon is very rare. You may occasionally find a scientist who is
ignorant of Shakespeare, but you will never find a scientist who is proud of
being ignorant of Shakespeare. (Murry Gell-Mann in Brockman, 1981, p. 22)
There are a number of opponents to Snows essay and F. R. Leavis (1962) is
probably the most voracious. Leaviss response is probably most notable because it
attacked not only Snows premise but Snow himself. Leavis spoke of the
preposterous and menacing absurdity of C.P. Snows consecrated public standing
(p. 19), his embarrassing vulgarity of style (p. 30). his complete ignorance of
history, literature, the history of civilization, and the human significance of the
Industrial Revolution (p. 28). Roger Kimball (1994) defended Leaviss attack on
Snows indicating that the realm of culture had to be protected from the reductive
forces of a crude scientific rationalism (p. 9). In Snows (1971) response to

Leaviss (and others) commentary he indicated that there is some criticism on each
side which is not entirely baseless, but that this type of subterranean back chat (p.
16) is all destructive and rests on misinterpretations which are dangerous. A more
modem illustration is exemplified by the latest outbreak of the Two Cultures issue
termed the Science Wars.
Science Wars
Science Wars is the name of a book by Andrew Ross published in 1996.
Rosss book was in response to the publishing of Higher Superstition: The
Academic Left and Its Quarrel with Science (1994) by Paul Gross and Norman
Levitt. Taken together they could provide all the evidence needed to conclude that
The Two Cultures are farther apart than ever before (Finneran, 1998).
According to E.O. Wilson (2000) those in science have not found
postmodernism useful. For postmodernists reality is a state constructed by the mind,
not perceived by it. If these premises are correct then no culture (science or art) has
any greater claim to truth than any other (Griffiths, 1995). Griffiths in his speech at
Rice University indicated that social constructivists believe:
...that science is a thinly disguised plot to maintain a largely patriarchal elite
in power over minorities, women, and experimental animals, and that the so-
called objectivity of science is no more than one way of searching for the
truth, and no more legitimate than any individuals words, science is merely

one way of looking at the world. Furthermore, it is a particularly destructive
way which has contributed to countless social and environmental abuses (p.
Gross and Levitt wrote their book to counteract this impending threat to the culture
of science and according to Finneran (1998) portrayed science as all that was
rational and good, and that all critiques of science were lunatic attempts to
undermine Western political, economic, and intellectual traditions (p. 1). The only
conceivable response by the postmodernists would be an attempt to discredit the
scientists, thus the publication of Science Wars (Finneran, 1998). Rosss response to
Gross and Levitt included attacks on the very heart of the process of science: all
the fine talk about the enlightened pursuit of public knowledge is a screen for the
fact that secrecy and competition are the guiding principles of research (p. 2).
Ross imagines that claims of objectivity are merely an attempt to cover up the fact
that sciences real values are just a form of extreme capitalism (Finneran, 1998). So
much for the subterranean back chat.
These diametrically opposed and highly vocalized opinions from within the
intellectual community itself must somehow affect attitudes toward science. Yet
Americans still think that science does more good than harm without feeling
scientifically capable. It would appear straight forward that science education must
somehow be involved in our concept of scientific literacy.

When 63 percent of the nations adults think that lasers work by focusing
sound waves, and 47 percent of Americas 17-year-olds cannot convert nine parts
out of 100 to a percentage, we know that science education does not work
(Beardsley 1992). From 1983 to 1992 some 300 reports on the problem of
American science and mathematics education were issued. These reports offer either
appeals to attain unrealistic goals, or efforts to deal with curriculum deficiencies, or
anguish that science is not taught as a liberal art (Tobias 1992). The call for reform
in science education is not new.
History of Science Education in America
Several very good works on the history of science education are available
(see (Mintzes, Wandersee, & Norvak, 1998). This brief synopsis was drawn mostly
from the reviews by Mintzes, et al. (1998), and Montgomery (1994).
Science Education before 1950
Science was not a major part of a college education in post Civil War
America. The areas of language, rhetoric, classical studies, history, mathematics,
and art dominated the curriculum. Where science programs did exist they were
relegated to what content could be found in science textbooks. Science education in

secondary schools during this period was also limited to rote learning and recitation.
This approach would not change until the 1870s and 1880s when in support of
increased industrialization colleges and universities moved away from classical
studies and began to emphasize a curriculum that included the natural sciences
(Montgomery, 1994). The land-grant colleges, established by the Morrill Act of
1862, symbolized this change by employing scientific knowledge to solve the
emerging technical and agricultural problems. Public enthusiasm about science also
grew during this period with open discussions about scientific topics including
Darwins evolution by natural selection. In response both Yale and Johns Hopkins
began to offer graduate programs in science. It would be these university programs
that would provide the pressure necessary to change the curriculum in Americas
secondary schools (Mintzes, et al., 1998).
In 1892 the National Education Association appointed the Committee of Ten
to examine the appropriate curriculum and teaching methods for secondary schools.
The committee recommended expanding science education to a full 20% of the
curriculum. The Committee also suggested that book science be replaced with
laboratory activities and field trips that would ensure hands-on experience with
science. The report from the Committee of Ten was the first time that college- and
university-based scientists influenced what would be taught in secondary schools.

However, the report was not looked upon favorably by school officials who needed
to prepare students, not just for college, but for useful and vocational training as
well (Montgomery, 1994).
This philosophy, known as the Progressive movement, originated in America
with the writings of John Dewey (1899) and Francis Wayland Parker (1895). They,
in turn, were influenced by Prussian experimental psychologist Wilhelm Wundt and
the Italian, Maria Montessori, who advocated child-centered learning. Dewey and
Parker were joined in the Progressive movement by efficiency advocates Louis
Terman, G. Stanley Hall, and Edward Thorndike. These reformers believed in a
curriculum that would serve social requirements and meet the needs of a growing
workforce involved in industrialization. Their influence would culminate in the
report of the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education (National
Education Association, 1918). The report recommended a curriculum that focused
on the application of knowledge to the activities of life. The specific
recommendations were embodied in a set of Seven Cardinal Principles which would
meet the goal of a full and worthy living for all. The Principles emphasized health,
subject matter knowledge, worthy home membership, vocation, citizenship, worthy
use of leisure, and ethical character. The science curriculum under the Progressive
movement would focus on public sanitation, personal hygiene, the function and

repair of electrical appliances, industrial and household chemistry, photography, and
nature study. Although these recommendations would never be fully implemented,
they would influence curriculum development for 40 years, and be the basis for the
Life Adjustment movement of the 1940s and 1950s (Mintzes, et al., 1998).
Science Education in the 1950s and 1960s
Two events signaled a landmark year for science education in 1957. The first
milestone was the last published edition of Progressive Education a journal that up
until then had been extremely influential in education. Its demise signaled the end of
the Life Adjustment era in education. Second, was the more publicized launch of the
Soviet spacecraft Sputnik on October 4 (Mintzes et al., 1998). This achievement, by
what was imagined to be a nation of peasants, seemed to confirm the publics fears
of American decline after WWII. We had grown soft and our schools were to
blame. What many imagined we needed was more rigor in schools so that we could
regain our belief that technology and science were the exclusive crowning glory of
Western civilization. By 1959 a number of revised science education programs were
under way that would restore the primacy of subject matter to the science
curriculum. They would replace the social/practical issues of science with a rigorous
curriculum that centered on the structure of the disciplines and the methods of

scientific investigations. These programs included curriculum from the Physical
Science Study Committee (PSSC), the Chemical Bond Approach from the American
Chemical Society, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, headquartered at the
University of Colorado, and a number of National Science Foundation sponsored
programs that included Time, Space, and Matter, the Earth Science Curriculum, the
Harvard Project, and Introductory Physical Science among others (Mintzes et al.,
Interestingly, this reform movement appeared to be a reversion to the 1892
Committee of Ten program. These were teacher-proof materials that included a
stamp of approval from a small group of developmental psychologists and curricular
theorists. Scientists had turned away from the writings of contemporary
philosophers such as John Dewey and instead drew on the empirical flavor of
psychological learning theory. The writings of Piaget, Bruner, Schwab, and Gagne
would provide the theoretical basis for most of the science curriculum development
during this time period.
Jean Piaget was originally trained as a biologist and specialized in the life
histories of bivalve mollusks. He began his interest in the development of reasoning
in children when working in the laboratory of Theodore Simon (a colleague of
Alfred Binet). He was fascinated with the mistakes that children make on IQ tests,

and instead of studying mollusks, spent his career studying childrens explanations of
natural phenomena (Mintzes et ah, 1998). The foundation of his genetic
epistemology is the stage theory of cognitive development. Piaget imagined learning
as a biological process characterized by successive periods of assimilation,
accommodation, and equilibration (Piaget, 1965). How successful one was at this
depended on the nature of the task, the learners stage in logical reasoning, and the
age of the individual. For science educators the most critical event in the
development of logical reasoning was the transition between the concrete and formal
stages where logical operations were possible. Piaget placed his emphasis on
general cognitive functions rather than the structure of the domain-specific
knowledge. Thus the teacher needed to ascertain both the readiness of the learner
and the appropriateness of the learning task.
Piagets work was promulgated among American educators by Jerome
Bruner and later by Robert Karplus. A developmentalist by training Bruners main
contribution was the conviction that any subject can be taught in some intellectually
honest fashion to any child at any stage of development (Bruner, 1960). However, it
is his work on problem solving and inductive reasoning that provided the
fundamentals for discovery learning. His most influential work, The Process of
Education, emphasized four themes; (1) to learn is to focus on the structure of

disciplines, because to learn structure is to learn how things are related, (2) even
very young children can be exposed to complex scientific principles if it is done in a
developmentally appropriate way, (3) engaging children in scientific inquiry will
promote the intuitive and analytic skills of the scientist, and (4) students should be
motivated by intrinsic interest rather than external goals such as grades (Mintzes et
al., 1998).
Following Piaget and Bruner the most influential writer of the time was
Joseph Schwab. Schwab encouraged the teaching of science as a process of inquiry.
His primary concern was that science in school was erroneously represented as a
known body of knowledge, and did not represent the logical, analytical, and tentative
process of science as done by scientists. Science for Schwab was taught as if the
current (but temporary) constructions of science were empirical, literal, and
irrevocable truths (Schwab, 1962). Students are asked to accept the tentative as
certain and the doubtful as undoubted. As a prominent contributor to the Biological
Science Curriculum Study he championed the role of the open-ended laboratory
investigation as a way for students to begin to learn, not only how to ask questions,
but to also find the answers. Many of the hands-on science programs can be traced
to Schwabs efforts.
The early work of Robert Gagne (1965) also had a major impact on

curriculum reform. His notion was that the learning of complex skills and behaviors
depends upon learning a hierarchy of successively more complex skills. Solving
problems therefore depends on learning higher order rules which in turn requires an
understanding of defined concepts. Those defined concepts are, in turn, based upon
concrete concepts. The rationale for this strategy emerges from Gagnes hierarchy
of learning levels a series of ideas originally based upon behaviorist principles but
later modified within a cognitive framework (Gagne, 1965). The areas of
educational technology and instructional design emerged from the effort to
microanalyze these learning tasks. The major criticism lodged against this scheme
was its failure to introduce and help children build frameworks of interrelated
scientific concepts. This resulted in classroom work which became a meaningless
succession of hands-on activities devoid of understanding (Mintzes, et al., 1998).
This criticism would provide the basis for AusubeTs (1963) work in
meaningful verbal learning. Ausubel imagined that the single most important factor
influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ausubel provided a mere
handful of concepts which, when linked together, provided the framework for
explaining a number of unrelated events about teaching and learning. The most
important of these concepts was the distinction between meaningful and rote
learning. Meaningful learning required the nonarbitrary, non-verbatim, substantive

incorporation of new ideas into a learners cognitive structure. Students who learn
by rote would tend to accumulate isolated propositions in their cognitive structures
rather than developing the hierarchical framework of successively more inclusive
concepts that are characteristic of meaningful learning. The major problem with
rote learning would be one of transfer. Students would not be able to use
conceptual information to solve novel problems. Ausubel (1963) also makes a
distinction between reception and discover)' learning. In discovery learning the
student infers the most important concepts and constructs significant propositions
independently. In reception learning, concepts and propositions are presented to the
learner by an independent agent.
Science Education in the 1970s. 1980s and 1990s
A mere 12 years after Sputnik, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and
Federal funding for science education at the elementary and secondary level
immediately began to shrivel (Mintzes et al., 1998). The attention of the public was
diverted from science and technology to social and political domestic issues. The
war in Vietnam came to a merciful end. With the increased incidence of herpes type
II and then AIDS the sexual revolution declined almost as quickly as it began. The
womens movement, and the environmental movement, both gained significance and

Watergate stunned a nation. It was a period of reflection and consolidation. With
the election of Ronald Reagan the national emphasis quickly changed from education
to military preparedness. Innovations in science education were largely confined to
local and regional initiatives. Issues of gender equality, multiculturalism, and the
integration of science and technology with social concerns signaled a return to
Progressive-era priorities in secondary schools. Although Federal funding for
curriculum work had declined, money was available for educational research and the
development of theories (Mintzes et al., 1998).
During this period the changing views on the philosophy of science combined
with new insights from epistemology and cognitive science allowed science
education to mature as a theory-driven field of inquiry. Perhaps the most important
contribution of the cognitive scientists was the concept that the human mind is a
complex mechanism that processes information with three independent but linked
memory systems: short-term memory, long-term memory, and a sensory buffer.
Sensory information is received in localized cerebral centers and must be consciously
acknowledged or it rapidly decays. If attended to, the information in the sensory
buffer moves into short-term memory. Storage capacity in short-term memory is
thought to be about seven independent chunks of information that decay in 15 to 30
seconds. Storage of information into long term memory from short-term memory

requires substantial processing and usually results in a significant change in the
propositional validity and structural complexity of the new knowledge. These
changes are a result of the conscious attempt to evaluate, compare, and contrast the
new knowledge with existing knowledge. It is this processing that creates new
knowledge, and individualized structure of that knowledge, which may or may not
be useful to the learner.
A post-positivist view of epistemology also contributed to science education
in the 1980s and 1990s. The most important contribution, promoted by Kuhn
(1962), was the idea that observation in science was not a neutral activity but instead
was strongly dependent on prior knowledge (Kuhn, 1962). This prior conceptual
knowledge was viewed by Kuhn as the paradigms scientists use to direct the kinds of
questions they could ask. Kuhn imagined that most of the time scientists engage in
puzzle-solving activities that clarify, reinforce, and patch-up the prevailing paradigm.
When the exceptions to the existing paradigm become so numerous that a new
paradigm becomes necessary a scientific revolution occurs. Other philosophers of
science, notably Toulmin (1972), imagined that conceptual change occurred in a
gradual, elaborate, and evolutionary process. He proposed that major conceptual
shifts are a product of the displacement of one concept with another more powerful
concept, and ... instead of a revolutionary account of intellectual change, which

sets out to show how entire conceptual systems succeed one another we therefore
need to construct an evolutionary account, which explains how conceptual
populations come to be progressively transformed (p. 121-122). While Kuhn and
Toulman wrestled with how conceptual change takes place, other philosophers were
concerned with how we come to know the external world.
It would be the constructivist epistemology of Ernst von Glaserfield (1989)
that would provide the greatest impact on science and science education during this
period. The contribution of the cognitive researchers (Piaget, Brunner, and
Ausubel) combined with the philosophy of Kuhn appear to have laid the foundation
for the post-modem/constructivist philosophy. The constructivist approach of
putting the student first would conform to the reformism tradition of Montgomery
(1994 See below). In von Glaserfields view individuals construct meanings by
making connections between new information and prior knowledge. For
constructivists there is no validity to the independent observation or correspondence
to nature concepts that are central to the traditional methods of science. In light of
this concept, von Glaserfield (1989) thought it essential that teachers understand that
knowledge cannot be transferred through linguistic communication alone. Teachers
will need to be knowledgeable about the conceptual network within which students
assimilate what they are being told. According to Mintzes et al. (1998) ... the

science education community has been offered a host of constructivist
epistemologies each with its own take on the knowledge building process (p. 48).
The philosophical approach to science curriculum appears to have gone full
cycle. At one end of the spectrum is an applied science education that can be related
to everyday experiences (Progressives) with curricula that promote memorization
and retention of large amounts of facts on the other end (Committee of Ten/post
Sputnik). Montgomery (1994) has characterized the differences in the philosophical
approach to science education as Academism, Practicalism, and Reformism.
Academism. The Academist tradition is probably the oldest tradition in
Western Culture. It is associated with the Old World concept of a liberal art or
ivory tower that matured in 16th and 17th century England and France. It embodied
the tutor pupil ideal of canonical study of great people and great books. It
produced gentlemen scholars who then gained access to titled superiority and
entitled stewardship. The curriculum (canonical wisdom of the great men) came
first, the teacher second (as representative of this wisdom), and the student
(novitiate) came last. The Canon was imagined to be powerful enough that
sometimes it would not require a true teacher only a messenger was required.
Early in the Academist tradition the practical art of science was of reduced
importance. By the late eighteen hundreds science had distanced itself from the old

label of practical and claimed pure objectivity (Montgomery, 1994). This approach
to science elevated it from the common classes and as such firmly established itself
as the New Academism. The success of science was enormous and its knowledge
seemed to prove its claims of superiority and the original concept of the Academist
became lost or ignored.
Practicalism. This tradition finds it roots in the educational philosophy of
Benjamin Franklin (Montgomery, 1994). It glorifies learning as a source of practical
advancement for working and middle class people. For the Practicalist, science
education needs to be connected with the concerns and needs of ordinary society.
Its structure provides strength to the prevailing institutional authority. Students will
apply their knowledge not only to their personal advancement but within currently
established institutions. In this tradition the curriculum and the teacher are elevated
equally above the student.
Reformism. The truest proponent of reformism was John Dewey. Dewey
proposed connecting life within the classroom to life outside in the everyday world.
Where Academism reflects class struggle, and Practicalism reflects the struggle
between classes and the efforts of government and industry to control the struggle.
Reformism directs education for social change. As such the student comes first, the
teacher interacting with the student (on an equal bases) to educate comes second,

and last is the curriculum essential to be sure but flexible (Montgomery, 1994).
The Reformists have always rebelled against the Academist tradition in
American science education, and science has retained a place of honor in the
Reformist tradition with examples like science for democracy or science for a better
world (Montgomery, 1994). Yet another indication that science would somehow be
the salvation of the poor. This is a theme that Snow (1959) emphasized in his Two
Cultures lecture. He imagined that science (as personified by the Industrial
Revolution) was the only hope for those working classes facing poverty.
These traditions have a complex interwoven history. At some point in the
past each one of these traditions has been given precedence over the others by those
in powerful positions. Science for National Defense, the response to Sputnik in the
1960s, favored the pure science of the Academists. The Progressive era marked
radical curricular change according to the Practicalist and Reformist traditions.
In primary and secondary schools the old Academist view of humanities over
science held sway for nearly the entire 19th century. It was not until the 1880s and
1890s that science has had a safe place in the curriculum. The radical curricular
changes, along Practicalist lines, of the Progressive era remained standard until the
1950s when the new Academist tradition, with science at the forefront, became

In higher education, the 19th century was firmly controlled by the old
traditional Academism. By the end of the 19th century the research university,
fostered by the Morrell Act of 1862, had replaced traditional Academism with the
New Academism of science. The New Academism saw science as the highest, most
uncompromised, most removed, and purest form of cerebral work (Montgomery,
1994). The new Academist tradition has been dominant in the 20th century.
The issue of societal and individual attitudes toward science are not merely
focused between students and science teachers or science teachers and curriculum
experts. Attitudes toward science are complex and can be impacted by a number of
Attitudes Toward Science
The term attitude was used during the 18th century to describe the posture
and movement of actors (Fleming, 1967), and this historical connotation remains
today when describing the posture of an airplane or the physical expression of
emotion in an animal (Koballa, 1988). In the mid 1800s Darwin used the term to
describe the emotional readiness of animals in a state of fight or flight (Albrecht et
al., 1980). The psychological concept of attitude was not introduced until Thomas
and Znaniecki first used it in 1918 to describe the acculturation of Polish peasants in

urban America. This study set in motion an era where feelings became worthy of
study (Shrigley et al., 1988).
In their observation of Polish farmers, Thomas and Znaniecki (1918)
analyzed several hundred letters between the old-country and immigrant Poles living
in urban areas of North America. These letters revealed a change of lifestyle for
these immigrants and attitude was used as the psychological construct to explain this
change (Shrigely, 1988). This study emphasized social influences and evaluative
qualities that remain important to this day (Shrigley, 1988). Attitude became firmly
established as a mental concept during the late 1920s by psychologists in Chicago
studying the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company (Koballa, 1988).
In the 1920s worker fatigue was imagined to be caused by poisons in the
body that accumulated as a result of physical exertion. The psychologists studying
the employees at the Hawthorn Works theorized that shorter hours would reduce
fatigue, by lowering the poisons, and productivity would go up (which it did). They
hoped that this intervention would raise morale (attitude). However, a curious thing
happened when the rest periods were removed and the work day again lengthened.
Worker production continued to increase because workers were aware that they
were being studied (now known in psychological research as the Hawthorne Effect,
Shrigely 1983). Physical factors could not explain the hard work and cooperation

among the workers so researchers were forced to turn to affective (psychological)
explanations such as morale or attitude (Shrigley, et al. 1988).
Reductionist researchers in all fields have traditionally searched for the
simple constructs which can be used as the basic units of analysis. Biologists have
their cells, chemists their atoms, and physicists their quanta. Along with attitude
early psychologists chose instinct, sentiment, and habit as their basic units, but only
attitude has survived (Shrigley, 1988). The attitude concept could have gone the
way of the others had it not been for Thurstones (1928) manifesto, Attitudes Can be
Measured. Thurstone imagined that attitudes could be measured along a continuum
from highly favorable to highly unfavorable and Likert (1932) simplified the process
with an item analysis technique that also provided measures of validation (Shrigley,
1983). Measurement continued to dominate the study of attitude until Carl Hovland
from Yale introduced the persuasive communication approach in the 1950's.
Hovlands premise was that if attitudes are learned, then learning theory should be
the place to start in designing theoretical models to change attitudes (Shrigley,
1983). Hovland imagined that humans are rational and if confronted with
appropriate oral and written communications will learn attitudes just like they learn
everything else (Shrigley, 1983).
Over the last 20 years researchers in science education have investigated

attitudes toward science on the assumption that relationships exist between attitude
and a number of variables that include achievement, intelligence, gender, grade level,
family factors, cultural backgrounds, peer influence, curriculum, instruction, and
many more (Koballa,1988). Taylor (1988) has identified a number of similar
variables that affect attitudes toward mathematics. Haladyna, Olsen, and
Shaughnessy (1982) suggest that these variables may be classified into two groups.
Those that are under the direct influence of the institution of schooling (endogenous)
and those that are not (exogenous). Examples of exogenous variables would be
gender, family mobility, family socioeconomic status, etc. Endogenous variables
would include curriculum, instruction effects, and teacher training. This study
focused on the exogenous variable of individual characteristics, peers, home
environment/parents, and the endogenous variable of school environment/teachers.
Individual Characteristics
Attitude towards science may be strongly linked to a perception of self and
the ability to learn. Students with a strong positive regard for their own abilities
have a more positive attitude toward science (Haladyna et al., 1982). Hasan (1985)
studied secondary school students in Jordan. Of the seven variables investigated the
most important effect on attitudes toward science was the students perception of

their science ability. A number of investigators have found positive correlations
between self-concept and learning outcomes (Kremer & Walberg, 1981; Simpson &
Troost, 1982). Haladyna, Olsen, and Shaughnessy (1982) reported a relationship
between fatalism and attitude toward science in fourth, seventh, and ninth grade girls
and boys that appeared to get stronger with time. The relationship is a negative one
in which a low attitude toward science is associated with a high sense of fatalism and
it appears secondary for boys and first for girls in their regression models. Students
who have more confidence in their ability and less of a sense that their academic
fates are beyond their own control (fatalism) have more positive attitudes about
school and science (Haladyna, Olsen, & Shaughnessy, 1982).
Of all the variables studied gender has been shown to be a consistent
influence (Schibeci, 1984). Females tend to have less than positive attitudes toward
science, science classes, and careers in science than males (George, 2000). Over
twice as many boys in middle school are interested in a future in science than are
middle school girls (Catasambis, 1995). Among sixth grade students females
reported more often than males that science was difficult to understand. This gender
effect has not changed in 20 years, the class of 2001 is the same as the class of 1981
(Jones, Howe and Rua, 2000). In longitudinal studies of middle school students
Simpson and Oliver (1985) found that boys had greater achievement and more

positive attitudes toward science than girls despite the fact that girls were more
motivated to achieve in science than were boys. In her 1995 meta-analysis of
research on gender differences in attitude toward science and achievement,
Weinburgh (1995) found that boys have more positive attitudes toward science than
girls, and that liking science was closely related to achieving in science for both high
and low-performing girls (George, 2000). Catasambis (1995) found that eighth
grade girls were more frightened to ask questions in science class, less likely to think
that science class would be useful to their future, and less likely to look forward to
their science class than boys their same age. These differences existed despite the
fact that girls performed as well or better than boys (Catasambis, 1995). A few
studies completed in the late 1970s and early 1980s concluded that their were no sex
differences in attitude toward science (Schebeci, 1984). Schebeci (1984) gives three
possible explanations for this phenomenon. First, the sexes may distinguish between
the physical and biological sciences in a different way; males are more positive
toward the physical sciences, and the physical sciences are perceived by both groups
as more masculine. Second, these studies may have used inadequate
instrumentation. Third, there is a possibility that sex alone is not a significant
influence on attitudes.
Attitudes are acquired in a number of ways but the influence of those

individuals that interact directly with students are a key factor in the development of
attitudes toward science (George, 2000).
Peers may have a strong effect on science attitudes. Keeves (1975) found
that the group of friends with whom one spends time with influences personal
attitudes toward science and mathematics. A decade later Talton and Simpson
(1985), like Keeves, found that attitudes toward science become increasingly like
those of their peer groups as students progress through school. Some researchers
have stated that the attitudes of ones peers are more influential than those of parents
and teachers (George, 2000). A study that employed growth modeling techniques to
evaluate longitudinal studies on seventh and tenth grade students found a positive
association between respondents attitudes and their perception of their peers
attitude toward science (George, 2000).
Home Environment and Parents
The home environment and parental educational level have been found to
exert a strong influence on science attitudes. There appears to be a causal chain
linking parental instruction with attitude and achievement (Talton and Simpson,

1986). As reported by Haladyna and Shaughnessy (1982), Reed (1961) found
fathers interests highly related to attitudes. Schebeci (1989) found that the
mothers influence was more significant for science achievement than for science
attitudes. George and Kaplan (1998) reported that parental involvement, mediated
through student participation in science activities, had indirect effects on science
attitude for eighth grade students. Talton and Simpson (1987) found that a
consistent predictor of sixth through tenth grade students attitude toward science
was whether or not their parents and siblings liked science.
Teacher and School Environment
Teachers. In a study of talented students, a large majority indicated that
teachers had the most influence at school, and outside of school parents played the
major role in stimulating science interest (Wright and Houndsell, 1981). George
(2000) employed growth modeling techniques to evaluate longitudinal studies on
seventh and tenth grade students. Students who imagined that their teachers were
encouraging them to work hard on science and to take more science courses had
positive attitudes toward science.
School Environment. The largest number of studies in this category are
reports on the effects of instruction or curriculum on attitudes. Many of these

involved a pre-test, intervention, post-test design (see, for example, Behrens, 1994;
Gogolin & Swartz, 1992; Havasy, 1997; Heron, 1997; Keeves, 1975; Parker &
Gerber, 2000; Schibeci, 1989; Sundberg, Dini, & Li, 1994). Some are longitudinal
studies based on standardized testing (see Oliver & Simpson, 1988; Riesz, 1995; and
Talton & Simpson, 1987, 1986, 1985). Other studies are based on the
administration of a single survey, questionnaire, or instrument (see Catasambis,
1995; Ebenezer & Zoller, 1993; Jones, Howe & Rua, 2000; Myers & Fouts, 1992;
Schibeci & Riley, 1986; Shamai, 1996, and Yager & Penick, 1986). A large number
of attitude objects have been studied: animal life, career education, energy,
environmental attitudes, inquiry attitudes, interdisciplinary topics, laboratory work,
the metric system, school, scientists, teaching science, and decision making.
Schibeci (1984) in his meta-analysis of science attitude studies concluded that it was
not possible to draw any conclusions from such a diverse array of topics.
In many studies the learning environment and the teacher are highly related
to attitude but there are no clear patterns except that student must sense that what
they are doing is important, the atmosphere must be positive, instruction needs to be
organized, and students must sense satisfaction with their work (Haladyna, Olsen &
Shaughnessy, 1982). In addition Haladyna, Olsen, and Shaughnessy (1982)
indicated that in most studies the teacher is most important and the learning

environment and curriculum are important but not as important as the teacher.
Compared to the 1970s and 1980s there is very little current work being
done on determining what may influence attitudes toward science. It appears as if
these studies were abandoned for studies that employed some type of science
attitude instrument and a pre-test, intervention, post-test experimental design. Few
attempts have been made to look at the interaction of family, friends,
teachers/school, and individual characteristics on attitudes toward science, and even
fewer studies have included college students. These young adults may be more
characteristic of those individuals that the National Science Foundation (1998) finds
to be less than well informed about new scientific discoveries and the appropriate
use of technology.
Our cultural arguments with science are real and they must somehow
influence individual attitudes toward science. Not all religions are at odds with
science but the majority of Americans are Christians and the concepts of evolution
and the big bang theory are diametrically apposed to the teachings of many Christian
sects as well as to other groups who interpret the Bible literally. Few Americans are
probably aware of The Two Cultures debate and yet must somehow be impacted by

the subterranean back chat.

A questionnaire was employed to investigate how well students individual
characteristics, home environment, peers, and school environment/teachers can
predict their attitude toward science (see Appendix A). Participants in the study
were students enrolled in a general education biology class at the University of
Colorado at Denver. Analysis of questionnaire data involved both quantitative and
qualitative methods. Ethnographic interviews were conducted with students who
identified themselves as having a positive attitude toward science when their
individual characteristics, family life, friends, and school experiences would predict a
negative attitude toward science. Cross-case analysis was conducted to determine
w'hat these individuals may have in common. Appropriate documents were
submitted, approved, and subsequently renewed by the University of Colorado
Human Research Committee (Appendix B). Each participant was asked to sign a
consent form and then was given a copy of the signed form (see Appendix C).

Students were reminded verbally and on the consent form that participation in the
study would not influence their grade in the class.
Quantitative Methods
There were 221 participants over a 3 year period each of whom had
completed all but the last week of a general education biology course with an
emphasis in human biology. Their self-reported overall grade point averages (on a
four point scale) at survey date indicated that 43 % were between 3.5 and 4.0, 31 %
between 3.0 and 3.4, 19 % between 2.5 and 2.9, 5 % between 2.0 and 2.4, and 2%
below 2.0. High school ranking, also self-reported, indicated that 47 % were in the
top one fourth, 31 % in the second one fourth, 18 % in the next one fourth and 4 %
in the bottom one fourth. The mean age of the respondents was 24 and there were
more female participants than male (74 % and 26 %, respectively).
The University of Colorado at Denver is an urban non-residential campus
located in downtown Denver. Its charter is the development, assessment,
transmission, and preservation of knowledge to urban needs while maintaining the
highest standards of education and scholarship. CU-Denver serves a diverse
population of students consisting of 55% undergraduate and 45% graduate students.

A large number of these students are employed (73%) and 49% work 30 or more
hours a week. Minority students make up 19% and international students 6% of
the student body. Table 3.1 provides a comparison of the characteristics of the
study participants to the University of Colorado at Denver student population at-
large for the academic year 2000 (the last year of this study).
The questionnaire included 38 multiple-choice and seven open-answer
questions divided into four categories: individual characteristics, home
environment/parents, peers, and school environment/teachers. This questionnaire
was originally developed as an oral survey by Gogolin and Swartz (1992) and
subsequently modified to a written survey for this study. The questionnaires were
sorted into five categories based on answers to the open-ended questions that
indicated the participants attitudes toward science (see Table 3.2). Student
statements such as I like science or I hate science are considered to be
expressions of attitude toward science because they indicate a positive or negative
feeling toward the formal study of science or an area of science research (George,
2000). Sorting reliability was determined by randomly selecting 20 questionnaires
that were rated by three additional individuals. The average reliability was

Table 3.1
Participant characteristics compared to institutional student population
Study Participants (%) University of Colorado at Denver Student Population (Academic Year 2000) (%)
Females 74 56
Males 26 44
Average Age 24 25
Class Seniors 34 35
Juniors 30 23
Sophomores 26 21
Freshpeople 11 21
Minorities - 19
Asian Americans - 7
African Americans - 4
Hispanics - 9
Native Americans - 1

Table 3.2
Attitude toward science rubric
; Attitude Category Descriptors
Positive Positive love, like, enjoy, great, remarkable
! Positive Neutral i its applicable but..., science is important but..., hard to understand, dont like math, like nature but do not like science
| Neutral Neutral i 1 do not think about it one way or the other
| ; Negative Neutral i abstract, not applicable, dry, not interesting, never felt comfortable in science class, did not like science teachers or teaching methods, afraid of science classes
i i Negative Negative hate, dislike, never liked, avoid like the plague
i 54

determined to be 94 % by using the following formula:
number of agreements
reliability = __________________________________________
total number of agreements + disagreements
The responses to each question were compared to determine if a significant
difference exists between individuals with opposing attitudes toward science. Chi
Square contingency tables, Fisher exact probability tests, correlations, and multiple
regression were employed to analyze data. The level of acceptable significance for
the study was set at p = .05. Correlations were employed when the answers to the
questions involved three or more choices, see Rasmussen (1989) for approximations
to continuous data under these conditions. When answers to questions were limited
to two possible responses, contingency tables were employed. Correlations were
utilized when feasible to strengthen the predictive power of the science attitude
profile developed in Chapter VI. Correlations do not indicate causation because
there is always the possibility of a third unknown variable influencing the correlating
variables. Multiple regression techniques were applied to determine the relative
importance of statistically significant predictors.

Qualitative Methods
Open-ended questions were analyzed using qualitative methods to provide
validity to quantitative results via triangulation and to provide insight into alternative
factors that may influence the development of science attitudes. Analysis of
qualitative data in this study follows the view of Miles and Huberman (1994):
We define analysis as consisting of three concurrent flows of activity: data
reduction, data display, and conclusion drawing/verification. (p. 10)
Data Reduction. Answers to the open-ended questions were initially entered
into a word processing program. Using the programs sort function, answers were
separated based upon the individuals gender and attitude toward science, and again
based on answers to individual questions. This process created two files for each of
five attitude categories. It was then possible to review the data on gender and
science attitude according to question or answers to any or all of the questions.
Each of these separate files was entered into a qualitative data analysis software
package (NVivo) developed by Qualitative Solutions and Research Party Limited
Data Display. Most of the qualitative data are displayed in word tables and
data matrices as described by Miles and Huberman (1994). These tables are

provided in Chapter IV and contain many, but not all, of the student comments.
The justification for providing extensive data is to display enough information so that
reviewers can determine for themselves if appropriate conclusions were drawn from
the data and thus increase the studys validity.
Conclusion Drawing and Verification. Conclusion drawing and verification
require analysis of the data. The first step in analysis is coding the information which
involves determining how data is differentiated, combined, and reflected upon (Miles
& Huberman, 1994).
Coding. Coding in NVivo is hierarchical in that a node or parent file is
created and from that file children or grandchildren files can be created. The
software provided a means of reading through the project documents, highlighting
passages that were of interest, and coding them by using parent, children, or
grandchildren files. Initially, parent files corresponded to the questionnaire format of
individual characteristics, home environment/parents, peers, and school
environment/teachers. As coding proceeded it was clear that analysis of the open-
ended questions was not going to exclusively follow these categories. Instead a
more detailed pattern emerged. For instance, students did not appear interested in
giving credit to (or blaming) their teacher for their experiences in science. They
were, however, concerned about a teachers philosophical/pedagogical approaches

to curriculum. As a result, two parent files added to the analysis represent the
Progressive and Academist approaches to curricula (see Chapter II). Data in these
categories could sometimes be further refined. In the case of Progressive
curriculum, the comments in this category could be further divided into the children
files of participatory projects and lessons related to everyday life. These topics dealt
with the category of school environment/teacher, but at a level of detail not afforded
by the closed question format. Indeed many of the original parent files eventually
became obsolete (see Table 3.3 for the evolved coding categories).
The clustering of information (coding) along with adequate display of
qualitative data, ...then sets the stage for drawing conclusions (Miles &
Huberman, 1994, p. 57). In qualitative studies the possible bias introduced by the
researcher has the potential to be a major limitation in establishing appropriate
conclusions (Miles & Huberman, 1994). This bias can be partially mitigated by
addressing internal validity, external validity, pragmatic validity, and the limitations
and trustworthiness of the study.
Internal Validity
Do the results make sense? Are they credible? The mainstay of internal
validity for qualitative studies is triangulation (Miles & Huberman, 1994). This

Table 3.3
Qualitative codes resulting from analysis of open-ended questions
Code and sub-code Number of coded characters
Complaints about Academist tradition in science
Science not creative 2,231
Too much memorization and detail 7,298
Gender 480
Peers 15,837
Progressive tradition
Participatory projects 14,183
Lessons relating to everyday life 6,647
Science esteem
Science just too competitive 458
Science attitude based upon past achievement 8,412
Student apathy 1,873
Trusted mentors
Family 19,138
Teachers 16,819
Ways of knowing
Science overblown 682
Religion 5,690
Which science
Math 3,597
Chemistry/Physics 4,149
Biology 7,108

study attempts to triangulate data in a number of ways. Qualitative data from the
questionnaires are triangulated with quantitative data from the questionnaires.
Qualitative and quantitative data from the questionnaires are compared with outlier
qualitative data (interviews). Whenever possible data is triangulated with the
research literature.
External Validity
The results of this study can, in all likelihood, be generalized to the total
population of students not majoring in science at the University of Colorado at
Denver during the study period. The results could possibly be generalized to
students not majoring in science at other state-supported urban universities, and at
larger community colleges where student populations are similar to those at UCD.
Pragmatic Validity
The results of this study will result in general suggestions for educators who
teach science to students not majoring in science. Some of the studys conclusions
may be generic enough to be applicable to those American adults studied by the
National Science Foundation (1988). Only 20% of these adults felt well informed
about the appropriate application of technology and only 25% believed they

understood science well enough to be able to make informed judgments about
scientific research reported in the media.
Limitations and Trustworthiness
The primary researcher has taught science to students not majoring in science
for 10 years and brings to this study the associated inherent biases of these
experiences. When possible, the potential for bias has been mitigated. The
conversion from an interview format to a confidential questionnaire format was
instituted to help insure that the effect of the researchers position of authority as the
course instructor would be limited in the study. When possible, raw data, tables,
figures, and word tables have been provided (see also Appendices E and F). When
appropriate statistical tests have been employed to back up qualitative assertions. Of
course, the extent to which students wrote down what they believed their teacher
wanted to hear we can never know. It is also important to keep in mind that the
participants in this study are students that are not majoring in science and do not
represent the entire population of urban college students.

Interviews were conducted with three volunteer students who identified
themselves as outliers to a preliminary version of the science attitude profile. These
students have a favorable attitude toward science, but would not have been
predicted to do so by the profile. An interview format based on ethnographic
interviewing techniques was implemented (Lancy 1993). Interviews were audio
recorded and transcribed (see Appendix D for interview format). These interviews
(cases) were also analyzed and coded with the NVivo software package.
The cases were cross-analyzed to determine what they may have in common
which would predict outlier status. The results of these cases should be considered
carefully because Miles and Huberman (1994) have indicated that while case analysis good at finding specific, concrete, historically-grounded patterns in small sets
of cases... these results are particularistic, while pretending to great generality (p.

The open-ended questions in the questionnaire were evaluated with the
science attitude rubric (see Table 3.1 in Chapter III) to determine a students overall
attitude toward science. This variable was considered the criterion or dependent
variable. Each multiple choice question was assigned membership in a general
category such as individual characteristics, home environment/parents, peers, and
school environment. These factors were considered the predictors or independent
variables. Questions were analyzed individually and within categories, using
quantitative and qualitative methods, in an attempt to determine which factors are
important in the development of individual attitudes toward science. A majority
(66%)of the study participants exhibited a positive attitude toward science, nearly
8% were neutral and 26% had negative feelings toward science. Figures are
provided in this chapter for each variable that significantly predicts attitude toward
science; figures for the remaining variables are provided in Appendix E.

Individual Characteristics
The questionnaire contained 10 multiple choice questions which investigated
individual characteristics that may have influenced attitudes toward science. Some
questions (29 and 30) inquired into the students degree of fatalism by asking how
much control they feel they have in what happens to them and whether they imagine
luck to be more important than hard work. Other questions probed the students
perceptions of their own good qualities and their willingness to try hard and always
do their best (31 34). Questions 35 through 37 involved the students perception
of themselves as students. Are they under pressure at school, are grades important,
how much time is spent on homework, and are they successful as students (See
Appendix A for the specific wording of each question)? None of the open-ended
questions was expressly directed toward the category of individual characteristics.
Most students (93%) in the study indicated that hard work was more
important than luck and among students with positive attitudes toward science there
was a significant difference (Pearson )(2(3, N = 216) = 11.15,/? = .025) compared to
students with negative attitudes toward science (see Figure 4.1). Haladyna. Olsen,
and Shaughnessy (1983) also found a correlation between fatalism and science
attitude in 4th through 9th grade male and female students. In their study, the
association between attitude and sense of fatalism grows stronger as students age. A

Science Attitude
I I No
Figure 4.1. Do you think luck is more important in life than hard work?
(Pearson X2(3, N = 216) = 11.15,/? = .025)

large majority of students feel better when they try hard and imagine that they have a
number of good qualities (95.4% and 97.3% respectively), and 85.5 % believe that
they can become anything that they want.
In this study students who feel less pressure at school significantly predicted
a positive attitude toward science (r (221) = .166,/? = .014) see Figure 4.2.
However, females felt significantly more pressure than did males (Pearson y2 (2, N =
220) = 16.09,p = .001). Feeling successful as a student also significantly correlated
with a positive attitude toward science (r (221) = .144,/? = .032) see Figure 4.3.
There was no difference in time spent on homework for students with positive or
negative attitudes toward science. Most students estimated that they spent between
5 and 15 hours a week doing homework. More than one fourth (28 %) reported
that they spent between 0 and 5 hours and just over 10% reported spending 16 to 20
hours. Only 4 % indicated that they spent over 21 hours a week on homework.
Nearly 73 % of all students indicated that grades were very important, while 27 %
indicated that it was somewhat important to get good grades. Only one half of 1%
indicated that grades were not very important, and no participant indicated that
grades were not at all important. Male students were significantly more likely to
have positive attitudes toward science than females (Pearson y2 (4, N = 221) =
13.00,p = .011) see Figure 4.4. As noted in Chapter II, gender appears to be a

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive
V J> v.

: v # 7

Pressure at School
I iNone
1 Iverv Little
( |A Moderate Amount
J.....-| t M --
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
A Lot
Figure 4.2. How much pressure do you feel you are under at school?
r (221)-. 166, p = 014)

Science Attitude
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive

Hi Not Very
| Very
10 20 30 40
Figure 4.3. How successful are you as a student? (r (221) = 144, p = .032)

constant and important predictor of attitudes toward science. Considering that 74 %
of the participants are female it is interesting that only four of the 2,423 coded
comments from the open-ended questions involved references to gender (see Table
4.1). There may also be confusion about which science students are responding to
when answering questions about science. As described by Schebeci (1984) the sexes
may distinguish between the physical and biological sciences in different ways. The
students in this study who made the distinction between physical and biological
sciences in their comments preferred biology over chemistry/physics (Pearson )(2 (3,
N = 65) = 11.99, p = <.001). When this data was separated by gender, females
exhibited a significant difference in their comments about preferring biology to
chemistry/physics (Pearson /2 (3, N = 52) = 11.01,/? <.001), males exhibited no
difference in their approach toward these two subjects (Fisher exact probability test
p = .160).
Home Environment and Parents
Questions 10 through 14 involved the influence of home and parents on
attitudes toward science. In questions 7 and 8 participants indicated that 66 % of
their mothers worked while they were growing up and are still working now. Many
students indicated that they spent a lot of time with their families (40 %) and just 6%

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
* f
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive
[3 Male
0 10 20 30 40 50
Figure 4.4. Gender (Pearson %2 (4, N = 221) = 13.00,/? = .011)

Table 4.1
Verbatim comments from open-ended questions that referenced gender issues
Yes it was important as a girl not too be too smart and especially not as smart as a boy. I
feel if I could go back and redo things I would have done much better for me and no one
No they were chosen for us by guidance counselors, who used prejudice, biases, and
sexism as motivators.
...because if I didnt feel encouraged by some teachers and if you were lost it was
embarrassing like 1 felt inadequate or stupid because I wasnt getting it, are females
less encouraged?
My father always encouraged my BROTHER to excel in math and science, they always
said he would be the doctor or engineer and make them proud. 1 wasnt even
encouraged really to even go to college -1 wanted to on my own. My parents always made
my brother out to be the genius in the family ironically, he never finished high school.
We never discussed much of anything. I was brought up in a generation where women
were teachers, nurses, or secretaries. Dad didnt think it was appropriate for me to go to

indicated that they seldom spent time with their families. Nearly 31% said they spent
a great amount of time with their families and almost one fourth indicated that they
occasionally spent time with families. One third of the respondents occasionally
attended science fairs and visited museums with their families and another one third
indicated that they rarely participated in these activities with their families. Nearly
one fourth indicated they never went to science fairs and museums and 8% indicated
that they went quite often. Nearly 5% of the respondents indicated that their parents
never say anything about how they expect them to do in school. The remaining
students were split evenly just over 47% indicated that their parents expected them
to do as well as possible, and another 47% that their parents expected them to excel.
When it came to time spent with family, attending museums, and parental
expectations there were no differences between students with positive attitudes
toward science and students with negative attitudes toward science.
Students in this study with negative attitudes toward science had fathers who
were employed in science significantly more often than students with positive
attitudes toward science (Pearson X2, (3, N = 221) = 10.15,/? = .038) see Figure 4.5.
This is not consistent with what has been reported by other researchers (Haladyna &
Shaughnessy, 1982), in which fathers interests were positively related to science
attitudes. It is conceivable that students who found their fathers science interests

Science Attitude
Not in science
I 1 In
Figure 4.5. Fathers Employment. (Pearson /2, (3, N = 221) = 10.15,/? =

beneficial in the development of their science attitudes may be majoring in science
and are not a part of this population. A few of the answers to the open-ended
question concerning family influence on feelings toward science may provide some
insight into this seemingly incongruent result and are provided in see Table 4.2.
Watching Public Television (PBS) and science television with ones family is
significantly correlated with a positive attitude toward science (r (221) = .229, p =
<.001 and r (221) = .253,p = <.001) respectively see Figures 4.6 and 4.7.
Question number 42 is open-ended and asked students if they could think of
anything in their home environment that has influenced how they feel about science.
The comments that could be interpreted as having either a positive or negative affect
upon students feelings toward science are represented in Table 4.3 (see Appendix F
for tables which separate comments by a students attitude toward science). Among
these, there were more positive comments from students with positive attitudes
toward science than from those with negative attitudes (Fisher exact probability test
/? = <.001).
Questions 25 through 28 were concerned with the possible influence of peers
on an individuals attitude toward science. Almost half of these college students feel

Table 4.2
Verbatim student comments about the influence of their fathers science
background on their feelings toward science
My Dad has been a big influence as he works in the field of Astronomy and has a passion for
Astronomy. On the other hand he has always been so technical he could never make simple
explanations that as kids we could understand. I think it turned us off to some science because it
seemed so difficult and foreign.
My father always encouraged my BROTHER to excel in math and science, they always said he
would be the doctor or engineer and make them proud. 1 wasnt even encouraged really to even
go to college -1 wanted to on my own. My parents always made my brother out to be the genius
in the family ironically, he never finished high school.
Not Really. My dad is pretty involved in science. He works for Pfizer. He always asks about my
science classes, and 1 can talk to him about them to an extent, but I never really feel Im telling him
anything worthwhile.
My Dad is atheist and absolutely every phenomenon has a straight scientific answer that he believes
MUST be right because it appears to have been proven.
Most of my family are math are science people, so Id rather do something different and unique.
My father had studied entomology but science was not discussed in the home.

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive

4. ' -

F I Never
I i Rarely
A Lot
Figure 4.6. Does your family watch PBS? (r (221) = .229, p = <.001)

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive
F ~' vl Never
10 20 30 40
A lot
Figure 4.7. Does you family watch science shows when they are on TV?
(r (221) = .253, p <.001)

Table 4.3
Verbatim comments from students about their families influence on their feelings
toward science
Positive Comments
Negative Comments
As a child my father encouraged me to participate
in many science fairs
My dad used to let my brother and I ask 1
question each before bed. If he didnt know the
answer he looked it up from a book in his
extensive collection of encyclopedias and science
based books.
My Parents, Dads interest in the minutiae of life.
The Time/life book series we had growing up.
Carl Sagans Universe series. My mothers interest
in and love of animals and plants. My sister
always wanted to be a marine biologist.
When I was just a kid my brother and 1 used to go
to a near by creek and catch crawfish. We kept
them as pets until they died the we would dissect
them. When I was six my mom bought me a
microscope and sea monkey. I raised the sea
monkey and then dissected it under my scope
Parents have always encouraged education
especially doing well in science and math
My dad had a fascination in science, and since I
was always daddies little girl, until 1 turned 13,1
loved what daddy loved. He would tell me a story
every night, and they usually were about a girl
(Me) who invents things (like solar powered
To be honest, 1 cant think of anything other than
the fact that we had a set of science
encyclopedias. I used to browse thru them but 1
cant recall anything I may have learned from
No not really my home environment was rather
abusive which should have turned me against all
learning but instead the opposite [happened].
No, If anything my home environment should
somewhat discourage me. I grew up in a Catholic
background, however I believe more in what
science has to offer me.
My Dad has been a big influence as he works in
the field of Astronomy and has a passion for
Astronomy. On the other hand he has always been
so technical He could never make simple
explanations that as kids we could understand. I
think it turned us off to some science because it
seemed so difficult and foreign.
both my mother and father hate math and
accepted that I was born to be bad at it.
My father always encouraged my BROTHER to
excel in math and science, they always said he
would be the doctor or engineer and make
them proud. I wasnt even encouraged really to
even go to college -1 wanted to on my own. My
parents always made my brother out to be the
genius in the family ironically, he never
finished high school.

that they had the average number of friends in high school. Nearly 36 % believed
that they had many friends and 18% indicated that they had just a few friends.
Students with positive attitudes toward science believed that their friends liked
science more than students with negative attitudes toward science (Pearson (3, N
= 197) = 12.93,p .005) see Figure 4.8. These individuals appeared to be similar
to the students studied by George (2000), Talton and Simpson (1985), and Keeves
(1975), who imagine that their peers have the same attitudes toward science as they
do. Despite the fact that 68 % of the participants indicated that their friends did well
in science, a majority (55 %) felt that their friends did not like science. A large
number of students (85 %) indicated that they spent time outside of school with their
Question 45 is open-ended and asked students if they felt that their friends
had any influence on their choice of classes in high school (see Table 4.4). Nearly
42% indicated that their friends did influence their choice of classes, while 58% said
they were not influenced by their peers when it came to selecting classes. There was
no difference in this category between students with positive and negative attitudes
toward science.

Science Attitudes
I I Yes
Figure 4.8. Did your friends like science? (Pearson %2, (3, N = 197) =
12.93,/? = .005)

Table 4.4
Verbatim comments from students about their peers influence on course selection
Yes, I think its important who you hang out
with. If science is your primary interest then
you are probably going to spend most of your
time talking about science
Yes, because you dont want to take a class
without one friend, thats what makes class
Yes, because I wanted to be in classes that
my friends were in or didnt want to be in
classes my friend said were bad classes or
bad teachers.
Yes we got to pick our own classes and
teachers and the times. We all in some way
or another influenced each other because we
all wanted to be together
Yes, At sixteen my interest swayed a lot to
time with my friends and activities around
Yes, all the people who were anybody in the
social scene took honors classes in my time.
Yes, I wanted to be with my friends in class-
not the loser people 1 didnt know. 1 thought
maybe those classes were the best because
my friends were taking them.
Sure, youve got to go where your friends
Not really, 1 always knew I wouldnt grow up
to be trailer trash. Like a lot of them are
now. I was in advanced classes in high
school and actually more respected for it.
No I always took the things that interested
me However, 1 feel that I may have
influenced some of my friends decisions
No My parents influenced my choices but I
liked to be in classes with my friends
No 1 have always chose my own path for my
education and was not likely influenced by
my friends.
No, the classes that I took was where I met
my friends and we all made sure we had our
No Many of my friends were more interested
in social hour than school. They wanted to
take the was classes to get out of school as
soon as possible. I was more interested in the
learning part.
Absolutely not Dont have a mind of my
NO I always did what I wanted to do, I had a
number of friends(most of them) that chose
to just squeeze by. 1 was more motivated to

School Environment
Haladyna, Olsen, and Shaugnessy (1982) argued that variables relating to the
teacher and the learning environment are critical because they potentially have the
greatest effect on attitudes toward science and may be changed to produce positive
attitudes. Questions 15 through 23 investigated how the school environment and
science teachers may have influenced attitudes toward science. The questions are
further divided between elementary' and high school experiences. A large majority of
students (90 %) believed that their science teachers were knowledgeable. Students
with positive attitudes toward science found science in elementary school
significantly more enjoyable and important than those students with negative
attitudes toward science (Pearson y2 (3, N = 217) = 10.15,/? = .038 and Pearson y2
(3, N = 198) = 7.87,/? = .049) see Figures 4.9 and 4.10. Participants with positive
attitudes toward science also felt more encouraged by their high school science
teachers (Pearson y2 (3, N = 205) = 14.58,/? = .006) and had more positive feelings
about their science teachers (Pearson y2 (3, N = 189) = 8.630,/? = .037) than
students with negative attitudes toward science see Figures 4.11 and 4.12.
Haladyna, Olsen, and Shaughnessy (1982) demonstrated that as science becomes
more specialized in junior and senior high school, students are likely to become more
polarized in their views toward science with increasing age. In addition, females felt

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive
0 10 20 30 40 50
I I Yes
Figure 4.9. Did you enjoy science class when you were in elementary
school? (Pearson y? (3, N = 217) = 10.15,/? = .038)

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive

V - :
Figure 4.10. Did you think you were learning important things in science
class in elementary school? (Pearson %2 (3, N = 198) = 7.87,
p = .049)

Science Attitude
Negative Negative
Negative Neutral
Neutral Neutral
Positive Neutral
Positive Positive
Figure 4.11. Do you remember your science teachers with positive
or negative feelings? (Pearson (3, N = 205) = 14.58,
p = .006)