A longitudinal study investigating pupil attitudes towards their school science learning experiences from a gender perspective
The research aim was to challenge the belief that girls' access to and perfonnance in science
education is no longer problematic based on evidence of the continuing low uptake by girls of
science courses post 16 and female participation in science related careers. The research
hypothesised that affective factors were influential in this and explored through a longitudinal
study how girls and boys experienced science in Key Stages 3 and 4.
The initial literature review examined research into the relationships between attitudes and gender
and the conceptualisation of these constructs. The study drew on this to survey 208 Year 7 and 8
pupils from three community schools about their views of their self-efficacy as science learners,
their topic preferences and interests in science. A sub-sample of twenty pupils from each school
was interviewed annually through to Year 9 to probe their perceptions of what influenced their
experiences and affected their learning.
The data revealed that looking for some concept or construct of attitudes to explain science
achievement was not productive to understand either achievement or how pupils feel positioned in
relation to science. The second phase of the research, based on a social view of learning and
knowledge, focused on 20 case studies of a sub-sample of pupils from one school as they studied
science in years 10 and 11. Narrative accounts were derived to show how individuals react to
common experiences in science and how this impacts their achievements and liking for science and
their future engagement with it. This approach provides insights into attitudes as personal
responses to lived experiences in school science and a more subtle first from indidividual experiences out to common influences to reveal that there are no
simple relationships between achievement, liking for and engagement in science.