K. Ann Renninger, Martina Nieswandt, and Suzanne Hidi
Interest in Mathematics and Science Learning is the first volume to assemble findings on the role of interest in mathematics and science learning. As the contributors illuminate across the volume’s 22 chapters, interest provides a critical bridge between cognition and affect in learning and development. This volume will be useful to educators, researchers, and policy makers, especially those whose focus is mathematics, science, and technology education.
Approaching Classroom Realities: Mixed Methods and Structural Equation Models in Science Education Research
Martina Nieswandt and Elizabeth McEneaney
Teaching and learning in schools is influenced by various factors, such as social factors and inter- and intra-individual factors. Social factors comprise, for example, gender, race/ethnicity, social class, school norms, and beliefs/perceptions about schools and their members, while inter- and intra-individual factors include such characteristics as group dynamics, attitudes, interests, motivation, and perceptions about oneself and others (e.g., Arum & Beattie, 2000). In addition, specific curriculum expectations as well as hidden curriculum objectives impact teaching and learning as do other contextual factors, such as subject-specific national standards and national assessment movements, teachers' preferences for specific teaching and assessment strategies that are often deeply rooted in personal beliefs about teaching and learning, and the level of support of school administration. In general, classrooms are complex phenomena, complicating not only efforts to change practice but also the act of research itself. Turner and Meyer (2000) summarized bluntly, “Classroom research is messy” (p. 69). Researchers can either ignore the messiness and complexity of classrooms so as to concentrate on simple interrelations of two variables or the relation to an outcome variable (mostly student achievement) or they can investigate multiple variables from multiple perspectives using a multimethod approach. The latter vision must be embraced as part of any Gold Standard vision, with variables interpreted in relation to an understanding of the whole context.
A systematic review of current research on teaching and learning shows that most educational research has moved far from the old theoretical models that treated the classroom as a “black box” with data collection focusing on quantitative measures of “inputs” and “outputs” (Metz, 2000, p. 65). However, studies in educational research designed as randomized controlled trials with entire groups (e.g., classrooms, schools)—rather than individual students randomly assigned to treatment and control group by lottery—still operate as classic, black-box analyses. Reasons for or mechanisms producing posttest differences between two groups are seldom the focus of such large-scale studies. Instead, the focus is usually on examining programs rather than single treatments. Examples of this approach include studies identifying academic effects of vouchers on African American students who used them to switch from public to private schools (e.g., Howell, Wolf, Campbell, & Peterson, 2002).
Sarah Elizabeth Barrett and Martina Nieswandt
"An important aspect of fostering democracy through education is teaching for social justice; translating into an education in civic ethics with the responsibility to promote both economic justice and the equitable distribution of political power within society. Such an education seeks to develop in students (1) a sense of ethical responsibility to fellow citizens; (2) empowerment to act; and (3) knowledge to act wisely."
"Since Western societies vigorously promote the development of scientific literate citizens as an important task of schools, the lack of students’ interest in science, or the under-representation of women and visible minorities in science and technology related professions are concerns that are discussed in political and educational circles. Research on attitudes toward science is one of the fields that addresses these concerns and has the potential to provide solutions for changing practice. Among educators and researchers alike, it is commonly assumed that students’ attitudes in science influence their learning outcomes, their science course selections, and their future career choice (Koballa, 1988; Laforgia, 1988). Thus, changing attitudes should lead to changing be- haviour. A look into various science education and educational psychology journals and other publications in this area reveals a fascinating potpourri of research on attitudes to science. Topics currently addressed in that literature include (i) students’ attitudes to- ward schooling and different school subjects in comparison to science; and (ii) students’ attitudes toward science as a discipline and a school subject. Other studies focus on the relations between attitudes toward science and (iii) different instructional strategies (e.g., hands-on, co-operative); (iv) areas of school science (e.g., environmental science, physical sciences); and (v) students’ achievement. Some research projects look at (vi) the influence of teacher behaviour toward students’ attitudes, or concentrate (vii) on the relationship between attitudes to science and variables external to the classroom such as age, gender, ethnicity, and grade level. It seems that research on attitudes to sci- ence and any other variable(s) is virtually endless. The following chapter will not even attempt to provide an overview of this huge and multifaceted research field. Instead, following an overview that describes attitudes, introduces a major theoretical model of attitudes, and describes the still unresolved issue of measuring attitudes, this chapter will critically summarize some of the current research on attitudes toward science. The focus of this literature review will be on studies that research attitudes toward science as the dependent variable. Finally, the chapter will close with further suggestions for research in the area of attitudes."