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Katerina Salta, Chryssa Tzougraki
Science Education/ Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
School Directors, Researchers, Teachers, Policy Makers
Over 10 pages
This study investigated the attitudes toward chemistry among 11th grade students. The participants were 576 high school students (247 males and 329 females), between 16 and 17 years old. They were drawn from seven upper secondary schools in four towns in Greece. At this grade, students are close to complete the core chemistry courses.
Data analysis showed that students consider the chemistry course to be neither difficult nor easy (neutral attitude). Students find difficulties in the use of chemical symbols and the application of chemistry concepts such as atom, molecule, mass, volume and mole. The application and use of chemistry concepts and symbols depends on the students’ ability to transfer from the macroscopic to the symbolic level and from the symbolic to the microscopic level and vice versa. Their attitudes regarding the difficulty of chemistry lessons are also related to their abilities in solving chemical problems which require mathematical skills.
In addition, this study reveals that students’ attitudes regarding the interest of the chemistry course are also neutral. It is noted that some of the reasons that form such attitude are related to the content of chemistry curriculum, the limited amount of chemistry lessons time (one hour per week), the methods of teaching chemistry in Greek schools and the lack of laboratory experiments. In Greece, chemistry is usually taught theoretically without hands-on activities and this practice decreases students’ interest for chemistry lessons. The majority of students tend to recognize the importance of chemistry in their life (positive attitude), but they believe that chemistry course is not useful for their future career (negative attitude). Only few of the students (about 4%) express the wish to study chemistry at University. It is hopeful however that most students recognize that chemistry knowledge is useful for interpreting aspects of everyday life, and they believe that chemistry contributes in solving environmental problems and that it improves our lives.
In that same study, gender differences were examined. It was shown that although there are no differences between boys’ and girls’ attitudes regarding the interest, usefulness and importance of chemistry, girls tend to express more negative attitudes regarding the difficulty of the chemistry courses relative to the boys. It is possible that this is due to existing social stereotypes like “boys are born to be scientists or chemists”. The role of the media (books, films, TV programs, newspaper articles) which usually show male science figures is highlighted in the study.

Overall, Greek students have a more positive attitude regarding the importance of chemistry and negative/neutral attitude regarding the usefulness of the chemistry course, the difficulty and the interest.
An attitude is defined as the tendency to think, feel, or act positively or negatively toward objects in our environment. Several researchers have suggested that motivation can be defined in relation to two factors: the needs of the learners and their attitudes. Students’ motivation to learn science (and therefore chemistry as well) can be conceptualized in terms of at least five dimensions, two of which are the following: (a) intrinsic motivation and personal relevance, and (b) career motivation. The students’ intrinsic motivation and personal relevance dimension considers science intrinsically motivating (interesting, enjoyable, etc) when it is personally relevant (valuable, important, etc) and vice versa. The students’ career motivation dimension (wish to study chemistry at University) refers to the extrinsic motivation component.
This document was selected because it is a piece of original scientific research and its conclusions are drawn on the basis of rigorous quantitative scientific analysis. Even though it does not aim directly at measuring student motivation, it provides indirect evidence related to this issue. Thus, the neutral and negative students’ attitudes toward chemistry measured in this study relate with a low motivation to study and learn chemistry. In addition, the document provides hints for the possible reasons behind this low level of student motivation: inappropriate teaching methods, little allocated teaching time, curriculum content and context.
T.E.I of Ionian Islands - Department of Environmental Technology and Ecology

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2013.02.07

Posted by Miroslav Prokša (Slovakia)

Message: This publication deals with a report about difficulties in teaching chemistry at Greek schools which are very similar to Slovak ones. The methodic used was the same as ours – it was a questionnaire research. In this case among students of Greek high schools and about their approach towards teaching chemistry. The questionnaire consisted of questions about difficulties of the subject, its importance, about usefulness of chemistry in their future career and etc. Results showed that the most students consider chemistry as something important for understanding of the world but not so useful for their future occupation. Students participating in the research were from variously focused schools – from humanities to technicals. Though gender differences were interesting because girls consider chemistry as less difficult subject than boys but also as a less important for their professional life. Other results are very similar to results taken at Slovak schools, eg.insufficient amount of lessons of chemistry in curriculum, methodics of teaching based mainly on lecturing, insufficient smount of laboratory exercises but mainly these are a key to motivation, a small application of mathematics when teaching chemistry and etc. The research showed also that students dedicated to chemistry have much bigger motivation.

Date: 2012.12.13

Posted by Inforef (Belgium)

Message: The students’ difficulties that are menioned in the publication are the same as those observed in Belgium: use of symbols and concepts, difficulties in mathematics... It describes the teaching of chemistry in Greece, pointing out the centralised curriculum and the lack of practical work in laboratory. The publication provides tests to assess students’attitudes based on various parameters (students’ courses of study, gender). The study developed a questionnaire which is specific to chemistry (since most of them address science in general). It emerges that students’ attitude towards chemistry is not negative (rather neutral) but there is a paradox: while they consider chemistry as important in everyday life, they don’t see it as a career prospect. Most studies conclude that boys are more interested in science than girls. No experience to improve the teaching of chemistry is mentioned, although the survey could of course be used to improve it.

Date: 2012.10.03

Posted by Anna Pitto (Italy)

Message: This paper presents methods and results of a survey conducted among high school students in Greece on attitudes towards chemistry. In particular, a questionnaire was given to students: it contained statements about the difficulty of the subject, its importance, the underlying for chemistry and its usefulness for a future career.
The data are the mean scores for the assessment of the difficulty of chemistry and its interest (neutral attitude) and chemistry is considered by the most of students important to understand the world, but not very useful for a future profession.
The data were also examined by gender and field of study attended (students of science-medicine, humanities, engineering).
Gender differences: the only thing that has a small but interesting difference is the assessment of difficulty: the girls here seem to consider the chemistry less difficult than their male counterparts (honestly I could not understand the interpretation of this difference given by the authors ).
Fields of study: students who are following a course more substantial evaluate the chemistry not only more interesting, important and useful, but also more difficult than the other students who are less familiar with the matter.
An attempt was also to find out whether there is a correlation between students' attitudes and their actual success in the field: shows a positive correlation, but not very high, slightly higher than the other items is the correlation between success and perceived difficulty.
The work seemed interesting, though (I realized later) it is not recent (2004), and data were collected in 2001.
They cite the lack of importance of chemistry in the curriculum (one to two hours per week) and basically theoretical approach, based mainly on lectures, no laboratory work. The importance of laboratory for motivation and interest in my opinion is crucial.

Based in part on earlier studies the article cites as a source of difficulty two aspects:
a - application and use of concepts studied is necessary a continuous transfer from the macroscopic to the microscopic level and the symbolic level, it is not easy for students
b - the application of mathematical tools to the problems of chemical
I agree.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.