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Vasilia Christidou
International Journal of Science Education/ Taylor & Francis Group
Researchers, Teachers, Policy Makers
Over 10 pages
This study aims (a) to identify the fields of interest related to scientific topics in Greek students, and the types of out-of-school, science-related activities these students are most frequently engaged in; (b) to explore the possible gender differences in accordance with science interests and experiences; and the possible correlations between the students’ interests and out-of-school activities. The total sample consisted of 583 ninth-grade students (aged 15), from 27 randomly selected schools in different parts of the country. The students were attending the last year of the Greek “Gymnasium” (lower secondary school); that is, concluding their compulsory education.
The data revealed a high interest of the Greek students in learning about topics that are related to health and fitness. Other themes of high interest include “Astronomy, space and the sky”, “Light, sound, their perception and reproduction”, and “Plants and animals”. On the other hand, the themes referring to “Science, technology and their social dimension” and to the “Threatening aspects of science and technology” constitute the themes with the lowest interest reported by the students.
The out-of-school experiences reported by the students as more frequently practiced are related with “Using instruments and technological devices”. Quite often, the students report “Seeking information about nature” through experiences such as observing constellations in the sky, visiting museums and science centres, reading, or watching science programmes, and “Being involved in cuisine and handicraft”, while they less frequently engage in “Manual work”.
As far as gender is concerned, some stereotypic differences regarding interest between girls and boys were identified: girls are significantly more interested than boys in topics related to “Human biology, health and fitness”, while boys are significantly more interested than girls in learning about “Threatening aspects of science and technology” and “Science, technology and their social dimension”. Apart from the gender-related differences, girls’ and boys’ interests concerning “Astronomy, space and the sky”, “Light, sound, their perception and reproduction”, and “Plants and animals” converge. Concerning science-related experience, a “double” picture emerges. Interestingly, the girls report “Using instruments and electronic devices” (especially mobile phones) and “Seeking information about nature” significantly more frequently than boys.
Five significant correlations were identified between the topics of students’ interest and their out-of-school experiences. Specifically, experiences of “Seeking information about nature” have been found to be positively correlated with interest in learning about “Science, technology and their social dimension”, “Plants and animals”, “Astronomy, space and the sky”, and “Human biology, health and fitness”. Moreover, the students who frequently use instruments and technological devices also tend to report an interest in issues related to “Human biology, health and fitness”.
Some recommendations for improving school science can be considered from this study. First, the marked preference of the Greek students to human biology, health, and fitness indicates that, if the relevant topics are integrated with physical and chemical knowledge with an emphasis on their moral and social aspects, then the lack of interest in physics and chemistry could be compensated. Second, the integration of activities related to the use of instruments and electronic devices, the search of information about nature, and cuisine and handicraft in the science classroom could enhance the relevance of science, especially for girls, and therefore their confidence and participation in the science classes. Additionally, experiences that are not of equal appeal to girls and boys could be combined with topics of general interest in order to counterbalance differences and enhance interest and participation, especially among girls.
Intrinsic motivation and personal relevance is a major dimension of student motivation to engage in science learning. This dimension considers science intrinsically motivating (interesting, enjoyable, etc) when it is personally relevant (valuable, important, etc) and vice versa. The study presented in this document, showed that lower secondary school students’ preferences are different regarding the gender. Girls are more interested in topics related to human biology, health, and fitness, and are more familiar with using instruments and devices, seeking information about nature, and doing cuisine and handicraft; while boys are more interested in science, technology, and their social dimension, and the threatening aspects of science and technology, and tend to engage more in manual work and computer use. Consequently, the researcher suggests a need for the Greek science curriculum to become more appealing to students, by integrating topics and experiences that are interesting and relevant to them.
The data presented in this study were collected in the course of the Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) project. ROSE is an international comparative project with about 40 participating countries, which explores the factors affecting learning and interest of secondary students (age 15/16) in science and technology. As students’ interest is a key component of their motivation, the results reached in this document are strongly relevant with the national (Greek) reality of the subject “student motivation” and they are substantiated via a carefully designed research methodology. The document is an original piece of published scientific work, aiming to motivate scientists, science educators and science policy makers in identifying and implementing novel ways to increase and sustain scientific literacy.
T.E.I of Ionian Islands - Department of Environmental Technology and Ecology

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2012.10.03

Posted by Nadia Zamboni (Italy)

Message: The work, which shows the results of a statistical survey on the science-related contents and out-of-school, science-related, experiences preferred by a sample of about 600 ninth-grade Greek students, highlights significant differences between male and female, but also emphasizes the strong discrepancy between 'science in society' and 'science in school'. Hence a number of interesting ideas and thoughts on the renewal of curricula (with obvious reference to the greek one) that are far from the preferences of the students and therefore not very motivating towards scientific degrees.

The document does not reveal any specific reference to the causes of lack of motivation in the study of chemistry, while confirming that this is one of the disciplines less beloved by students, but emphasizes some factors responsible for the lack or decrease in interest in the whole field of science, easily identifiable in many educational systems.

Here are the main ones:
curriculum contents are far from the reality and not consistent with the expectations of the students (this is amply confirmed by the students who declare interests on relevant content that is non-existent or barely mentioned in the curriculum)
fragmentation of contents into individual dogmatic unit, in which academic values are emphasized and stored in a no-meaningful pathway
absence of motivating methodological approaches and weak sharing in the construction of knowledge

The survey work ends with a series of suggestions to increase and enhance students' interest in science, but there is no specific reference to chemistry, because it emphasizes the importance of a more extensive and flexible science curriculum in 'integrated' version, where the various disciplines are not treated as separate entities, becoming a part of a learning path properly planned.

In particular, considering the specific results of the survey, it is noted that the strong preference expressed by the Greek students (female, in particular) in the human biology, health and fitness, it could be an extraordinary opportunity to integrate content with the knowledge of the physical and chemical phenomena that characterize them.
All this is a suggestion extensible to any curriculum: the main effort consists in planning and identifying specific content within the various subject areas as well as in the construction of the connections between them. It is also arguable that should not be missed the interactions between formal and informal learning.

The paper references to the possibility of a teaching based on informal learning suggests a search for informations on the web or in magazines, in order to expose students to new scientific findings, directly related to the content covered in class. This is definitely useful and meaningful in any educational pathway and helps students to understand the dynamics of every aspect of science and thus, in general, the value and significance of scientific progress in today's and future’s society.

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.