A comparison of students' and scientists' understanding of the characteristics of scientists

Andrews, Ralph William (1973) A comparison of students' and scientists' understanding of the characteristics of scientists. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
    (Original Version)

Abstract

This study investigated high school students’ and scientists’ understanding of the characteristics of scientists. Students’ and scientists’ responses on a similar instrument were compared. An instrument (Characteristics of Scientists Survey) was developed consisting of 14 Likert-type subscales. This instrument assessed a wide range of characteristics such as the scientific attitudes of scientists, their motivation, their philosophical and religious beliefs, their role in society and their non-professional life style. A second instrument (Semantic Differential-Scientist) was used to further assess student impressions as to the personal characteristics of scientists. -- The following three hypotheses were tested in the study: -- I. There are no significant differences in the perceived characteristics of scientists, as revealed on an appropriate instrument, among various groups of professional scientists. -- II. There are no significant differences in the perceived characteristics of scientists, as revealed on an appropriate instrument, among various groups of eleventh grade students. -- III. There are not significant differences in the perceived characteristics of scientists, as revealed on an appropriate instrument, between professional scientists and eleventh grade high school students. -- Students’ and scientists’ responses were analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance. The 14 subscales or category scores were the dependent variables. Factors such as type of scientist, years of experience, highest degree received, students’ sex, science class of student, student’s hometown size, and his socio-economic status were the independent variables. The means of student responses on the Semantic Differential were graphed for comparison purposes. -- The results indicated no differences among groups of scientist scores, but significant differences were found among student groups for some of the 14 subscales. These differences were due mainly to science class and socio-economic status. Generally, students in chemistry, physics and biology had a more positive image of scientists as to their scientific attitudes at work, and their true motivation, than did students in earth science and physical science. Student of low socio-economic status felt more strongly than did medium or high socio-economic status students that scientists were motivated less by external factors such as financial rewards and prestige, and that scientists were much like they appeared in science fiction movies and stories. -- Students’ and scientists’ mean scores differed for nine of the 14 categories or subscales. Students had a more positive impression than scientists as to the scientific attitudes (integrity, operational adjustments, and critical abilities) used by scientists at work. Generally, students felt more strongly than scientists that scientists were motivated to do science by a desire to improve human welfare. Students felt that scientists were more religious, and also that scientists were less confident as to their beliefs in a comprehensible and knowable universe, than did scientists. Students also felt more strongly than scientists that most scientists needed to play a stronger role in making decisions about the uses of science. -- There was no common agreement or disagreement among students and scientists as to whether scientists were strongly motivated by external motivation, or whether scientists should keep the public informed about their work, or whether most scientists were highly interested in non-professional activities and home life. However, students and scientists strongly agreed that most scientists were highly motivated by intrinsic factors such as curiosity and the desire to know, and that most scientists recognized the importance of contributions made by science and technology to social progress and melioration. -- Student responses on the Semantic Differential-Scientist suggest in general a very positive image of the scientist. Although some negative attitudes were expressed, indicating that some students felt the scientist was a little strange, slightly radical and somewhat untidy in appearance. -- This study illustrated the need for more detailed investigations into student attitudes pertaining to scientists and their work, and the need for more research on scientists’ own attitudes about aspects of their work. Also the study indicated the need for more attention to be paid to student attitudes in future science curriculum development.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7317
Item ID: 7317
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 121-125.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 1973
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Scientists

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