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An inquirty into the role of cognition and affect in the formation of high school biology students' attitudes toward science

1 December 1992


America lacks a scientifically literate population (Moore 1990). Scientific literacy is described as "having the knowledge, skills and attitudes one needs to function as a competent citizen of a contemporary, technology-based society (Simpson and Troost 1982, p. 765)." Thus the emerging question: Is science education failing?

Researchers have found that, yes, in many ways, science education is producing students who not only lack a basic understanding of science, but are disinterested in learning science inside or outside the classroom. The problem, it is suggested, lies not in what is being taught, but, rather, how it is being taught. Historically, science education has emphasized cognitive outcomes, i.e., knowledge and skills. In the interest of content coverage, the traditional science classroom has been teacher-centered and has placed the student in a passive role. In such classrooms, knowledge is transmitted from the teacher to the information absorbing student.

This traditional setting which narrowly focuses on cognitive activities and outcomes has ignored the role of affect in student learning. The affective attributes of students, Le. their feelings, beliefs and attitudes, it will be suggested, go hand in hand with the student's cognitive experience. Thus, the way in which information is presented in science classrooms affects the student's cognitive and affective learning.

Equal emphasis on the affective experiences of students may positively influence students' learning as well as their attitudes toward science: Attention to affect in the student's learning experience may increase the learning opportunities available to him or her and consequently increase his or her opportunities to become interested in science, scientifically literate, and hold a positive attitude toward science.

This project investigates what instructional methodologies foster positive or negative attitudes toward science among biology students and also examines what teacher practices provide students with equal opportunities for becoming engaged in and interested in learning science.


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