Social and cultural influences on students' responses to science in a Solomon Islands secondary school
In this examination of social and cultural influences on a range of responses to school science in a Solomon Island secondary school, three levels of analysis are used. At one level there is a comparison between students within the school, looking for effects from personal background characteristics. This is the dominant level of analysis of school science achievement, first through statistical correlation, but then through an attempt to understand how the experiences associated with the characteristics found to be significant may exert an effect. Two effective mechanisms are examined: the promotion of a relevant cognitive skill, and the generation of attitudes. The examination of attitudes also makes use of the second level of analysis: comparison between observations with these Solomon Island students and observations made elsewhere by other workers. This level of analysis also dominates the investigation of the development of selected scientific concepts among the students. The third level involves a comparison between students in the school concerned and those in other schools in the country. Difficulties with obtaining data from other schools leave this as the least used level of comparison in the thesis. An examination of the position of science in the students' worldview fits into none of these levels, being largely descriptive, not comparative. The position of science relative to other sources of interpretations of the world is the major concern of this section. Gender and rural/urban background are found to be the major sources of differences in response between the students. It is suggested that, even where these characteristics can be shown to be associated with cognitive differences, explanations of their effect are most usefully sought in terms of experiences, opportunities and expectations that are social and cultural in origin. In the area of conceptualisations of physical phenomena, similarities and differences are found between these Solomon Island students and those from other cultures, suggesting that such conceptualisations are determined partly through a common human physiology responding to a common physical world, and partly through the influence of culturally available sources of interpretation.