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High School Students’ Opinions about Science Education

High School Students’ Opinions about Science Education



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High School Students’ Opinions about Science Education

Author: Ariela Keysar and Frank L. Pasquale
High School Students’ Opinions about Science Education

Author: Ariela Keysar and Frank L. Pasquale

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11.High School Students’ Opinions aboutScience Education
 Ariela Keysar & Frank L. Pasquale 
solid grounding in science is widely considered to be crucial or the nextgeneration o American adults. And providing science education to youngchildren and adolescents is an overarching goal o educators nationwide. Yetstudies show that although students are taking more science courses than inthe past—at the prodding o teachers and guidance counselors—they arenot absorbing much. The average science score at grade 12 on the National Assessment o Educational Progress test in 2005 was lower than in 1996, andshowed no signicant change rom 2000.In 2006, the average combined science literacy score or U.S. 15-year-oldstudents was 489—slightly lower than the average (500) or 30 industrializednations belonging to the Organization or Economic Cooperation andDevelopment (OECD). As reported in detail by Kosmin and Navarro-Riverain this volume,
U.S. students scored lower on science literacy than their peersin 16 o the other 29 OECD nations that participated in the Program orInternational Student Assessment (PISA).
 Beyond scientic literacy, PISA 2006 also looked at students’ interest in,and attitudes toward, science. On the positive side, the vast majority o U.S.students say they value science—almost 90% said that “Science is importantor helping us to understand the natural world.” A large but slightly smallermajority o students also believes that science contributes to society: A littlemore than three-quarters said that “Advances in science and technology usually bring social benets.” On the personal level, though, support or science issomewhat thinner. Looking to the uture, a little less than three-quarters said: “I
& S
 will use science in many ways when I am an adult.” The majority shrinks urther when it comes to students’ enjoyment o learning science. Less than two-thirdso 15-year-old Americans reported that they enjoy learning science, saying that“I generally have un when I am learning science topics.” And less than hal saidthat “I would like to work in a career involving science.”
ISSSC High School Essay Contest
The theme o the curriculum development project o Trinity College’s Instituteor the Study o Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) during the academicyear 2006-07 was The Secular Tradition and Foundations o the Natural Sciences.The discussions among Trinity science proessors and ISSSC sta raised concernsabout science education in the U.S. The science proessors drew attention to theneed to improve science education at the high school level. As valuable as the PISA survey is or assessing attitudes, a closed-endedquestionnaire cannot explore in depth what students are thinking and why.To learn more, by integrating its two branches, teaching and research, ISSSCsponsored in early 2007 an essay contest open to students in all Connecticuthigh schools—public and private, including religious—whose question was:
Why do so many young Americans today show little interest in science education? 
The announcement about the essay contest was posted on the ISSSC website. In addition, letters were sent to all high schools in Connecticut askingscience teachers to encourage their students to participate in the contest. Theletters provided details about the rules o the contest and its prize.The contest enabled young people, who are generally not heard rom directly on issues o educational policy and practice, to oer insights into the rame o mind o their own generation. Unlike an opinion survey, the essay contest wasnot intended to gather a representative sample o students’ eelings about scienceeducation, and we do not claim that the participants were representative o allConnecticut high school students.The 81 participants in the essay contest were almost evenly distributed by gender, with 42 girls and 39 boys. Overall a dozen schools participated andthe number o participating students rom public schools exceeded only slightly those rom private non-sectarian or religious schools. Students rom 9th, 10th,
and 11th grades as well as seniors submitted essays. They came rom inner city,suburban and rural areas and various socioeconomic groups.Those who participated were high-perorming students. They were unusually enthusiastic about learning. Participants in an essay contest typically are students who eel comortable expressing themselves in writing. They are more likely tobe motivated by their teachers to take part in an assignment beyond their regular
’ o
homework. Indeed many underscored a strong belie in the value o scienceeducation. Nonetheless, all o them accepted the premise o the contest, whichis that many young Americans show little interest in science education.The ideas expressed by the students highlight the issues o concern tohigh school students in the 21st century. We oten hear and read reports aboutstudents rom high school principals, teachers, counselors and parents. The essay contest is a rare occasion when students articulate their own views about theproblems in the educational system and even suggest ways to solve them. Inact, in answering the question
Why do so many young Americans today show little interest in science education? 
they did not mince words.
High School Students’ Opinions
The ollowing section quotes the students’ own words, with their originalgrammar and spelling or the most part preserved intact. (Words and phrasesused by the students are indicated in italics.)
The MTV Generation
 A large number o high school students placed the blame on the general Americanculture and their own generation
They aulted the prolieration o technology that makes lie easier yet more distracting, and they aulted themselves as well.This is, many argue, a generation that is all too ready to use available technology,or any other means, to avoid disciplined learning or sustained eort. Studentsdescribe their generation as
lazy, lacking in drive 
, or motivatedlargely to nd paths o least eort to ame, ortune, or nancial security. Forexample:
Science requires a certain amount o diligence and perseverance, which is not ound among the MTV generation. The youth have grown lazy and decadent, and reuse to put orth the amount o work necessary to excel in science. The alternatives presented by the mass media are ar too tempting  or the average youth. The sudden digitizing o entertainment has made  Americans dependent on immediate and constant ow o enjoyable stimulus responses. . . .The current generation o students would much rather play video games and watch television than work or a solid uture.Many people in my school are very lazy and don’t want to work. They only care about the celebrities, popularity, and music.Young adults today are more interested in doing activities that require less work and more un, in my opinion.

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I have lots of experience teaching online and F2F in higher ed and just in the last 2-3 years have these problems become VERY clear to me - exactly as described in this essay study. I encourage all colleges and universities to consider standardizing best practices and limiting student use of technology on campus. Much research supports my complete ban of all devices in class. Jeff Danese
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