Academic journal article Science Educator

Divergent Views: Teacher and Professor Perceptions about Pre-College Factors That Influence College Science Success

Academic journal article Science Educator

Divergent Views: Teacher and Professor Perceptions about Pre-College Factors That Influence College Science Success

Article excerpt

Interview data from secondary and postsecondary science instructors explored their in depth views on preparing students for college science. Professors expressed a high level of consensus concerning two factors: general student skills and mathematics preparation. Teachers, who expressed lower levels of consensus, did agree on the importance of mathematics, but also highlighted a variety of factors that promote active pedagogy in the classroom as well as the importance of technology, textbooks, other materials, and assessments. Given this divergence, the authors explored the research supporting the value of these factors as well as highlighted possible strategies for narrowing the gap.

Introduction

Transitioning from secondary to post-secondary educationis a daunting challenge for many students. Preparing them for this transition is an equally daunting task for their teachers. A recent report from Stanford University, Betraying the College Dream, points out that success in high school is a necessary yet insufficient step (Venezia, Kirst, & Antonio, 2003). The authors identify a serious disconnect between high school and college coursework and standards, and the lack of any system to facilitate a successful transition. In science education, the finding of a "disconnect" is not new. Studies conducted more than ten years ago reported important differences between the focus of high school teachers and expectations of college professors regarding student preparation (Razali & Yager, 1994; Shumba & Glass, 1994).

It is increasingly important to re-address this transition because students, parents, and even high school teachers are unaware of what is expected of students entering college science. The risk is another generation of students entering college with insufficient science preparation to support their success and persistence. Adding to this concern is the decline in the average scores of high school seniors between 1996 and 2000, which may indicate that the preparation of high school seniors is declining rather than improving (National Science Board, 2006). Of more particular concern is the challenge the United States faces in maintaining its competitive edge in science research at the international level. The task of preparing future scientists for work in the US has become more difficult as the number of non-citizens in American universities and research institutions has decreased. Daunting visa restrictions for foreign scientists and science students have limited the pool of available researchers who can work in the US in recent years (Simoncelli & Stanley, 2005; Glanz, 2003). In addition, the National Science Foundation reports, "the number of native-born science and engineering (S&E) graduates entering the workforce is likely to decline unless the Nation intervenes to improve its success in educating S&E students" (National Science Board, 2003, p. 1). Thus, high school and university science teaching can play a key role in increasing students' interest, performance, and future success thereby re-invigorating the future of science professions in the US.

In this study, we examine in detail the range of perspectives of 20 high school science teachers and 22 professors of introductory science at post-secondary institutions regarding the factors they consider most important in facilitating the transition from high school science to college science study. Our purpose was to identify the factors that secondary and post-secondary science instructors consider essential in supporting student transition to post-secondary science, and to explore any trends that emerged from these views. To that end, we identify specific areas where teacher and professor views are similar, as well as dissimilar, and compare our results with earlier reported research (Razali & Yager, 1994; Shumba & Glass, 1994). Our study investigates how factors identified by both science instructors and the research literature impact student success in university science. …

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