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High school student’s implicit theories of what facilitates science learning

Parsons, E.C., Miles, R., & Petersen, M.
Research in Science & Technological Education, 29 (3): 257-274 (2011)

DOI: 10.1080/02635143.2011.594788 Information about DOI

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Background: Research has primarily concentrated on adults’ implicit theories about high quality science education for all students. Little work has considered the students’ perspective. This study investigated high school students’ implicit theories about what helped them learn science.

Purpose: This study addressed (1) What characterizes high school students’ implicit theories of what facilitates their learning of science?; (2) With respect to students’ self-classifications as African American or European American and female or male, do differences exist in the students’ implicit theories?

Sample, design and methods: Students in an urban high school located in south-eastern United States were surveyed in 2006 about their thoughts on what helps them learn science. To confirm or disconfirm any differences, data from two different samples were analyzed. Responses of 112 African American and 118 European American students and responses from 297 European American students comprised the data for sample one and two, respectively.

Results: Seven categories emerged from the deductive and inductive analyses of data: personal responsibility, learning arrangements, interest and knowledge, communication, student mastery, environmental responsiveness, and instructional strategies. Instructional strategies captured 82% and 80% of the data from sample one and two, respectively; consequently, this category was further subjected to Mann-Whitney statistical analysis at p < .05 to ascertain ethnic differences. Significant differences did not exist for ethnicity but differences between females and males in sample one and sample two emerged.

Conclusions: African American and European American students’ implicit theories about instructional strategies that facilitated their science learning did not significantly differ but female and male students’ implicit theories about instructional strategies that helped them learn science significantly differed. Because students attend and respond to what they think and perceive to be important, addressing students’ implicit theories may be one way to enhance science education reform.

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