Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Children's Images of Scientists: Does Grade Level Make a Difference?*

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Children's Images of Scientists: Does Grade Level Make a Difference?*

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to assess children's images of scientists by using the Draw-A-Scientist Test and to determine if differences in these images exist between grade levels. The DAST was administered to 243 children who were enrolled in kindergarten (aged 6) and grade 3 and 5 (aged 9 and 11). Findings obtained from the study revealed that, in general, children possess stereotypical views of scientists using the DAST with their drawings displaying fewer indicators of the stereotypic model on average. Results indicated that there are significant differences in students' stereotypical images of scientists depending on grade level. The results also showed that fifth grade students created images of scientists with more stereotypical elements compared to drawings created by students in kindergarten and grade 3.

Key Words

Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST), Scientists, Children, Science Education, Grade Level.

The emphasis in science education has generally not focused on "preparing future scientists" towards a "science for all students" approach (Yore, 2011). In this respect, many countries around the world have given greater importance to the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines (STEM) in order to encourage students to consider a career in these disciplines in the future. It is generally accepted that there is considerable interest among science educators in the science education literature on the importance of students' perceptions of scientists. Perceptions of scientists can be viewed as the first step in considering future careers in STEM (Painter, Tretter, Jones, & Kubasko, 2006). Hence, it is even more important that students have accurate conceptions of what science is and what scientists do.

Students' stereotypical views about scientists may guide to perceptions that can negatively or positively influence students' attitudes for a future career. In general, students' images of scientists are often accepted as one of the important factors that influence students' interest, attitudes toward learning science and having science-related careers in the future (Boylan, Hill, Wallace, & Wheeler, 1992). These perceptions in a positive or negative manner greatly influence the number of the students interested in studying science and having a career related to science (Buldu, 2006; Finson, 2003; Finson, Beaver, & Cramond, 1995; Fung, 2002; She, 1998). Several researchers have also reported that students' perceptions about a scientist seemed to affect their willingness to become a scientist (e. g., Finson, 2003; Finson et al.). For instance, stu- dents who hold negative images of scientists would be less likely to consider science as an interesting subject or as a career option that they may like to pursue in the future.

Researchers studying perceptions of scientists (Newton & Newton, 1992) reported that students begin to form stereotypical images of scientists at kindergarten and elementary school (e. g., Losh, Wilke, & Pop, 2008; Matkins, 1996). Results from previous research have shown that stereotypical images and perceptions about scientists differ relating to the students' education level (Finson, 2002; Losh et al.; Medina-Jerez, Middleton, & Orihuela- Rabaza, 2010). Moreover, previous studies have not examined how stereotypical views that are held by elementary students might be influenced by their formal experiences in science. Therefore, the present study aimed to compare kindergarten and grade 3 and 5 children's images of scientists by grade level.

Literature Review

Since the pioneering work of Mead and Metraux's (1957) which investigated high school students' descriptions of a scientist, researchers have examined students' perceptions of scientists at all levels. Research studies in this domain have typically focused on what students' perceptions of scientists are. Many studies have been conducted to discern these perceptions (e. …

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