Factors Affecting Students Interest in Biology

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Science Education International Vol. 17, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 31-48

Factors Affecting Junior High School Students’ Interest in Biology1 RICARDO TRUMPER (rtrumper@research.haifa.ac.il), Faculty of Science and Science Education, Haifa University, Israel ABSTRACT Our study, conducted as part of the ROSE Project, on students' interest in biology at the end of their compulsory schooling in Israel, and its relation to their views on science classes, out-of-school experiences in biology, and attitudes to science and technology, showed that their overall interest in learning biology was relatively positive but not high; girls showed greater interest in it than boys. Students' interest in learning biology correlated closely with their negative opinions of science classes. These findings raise critical questions about the implementation of changes in the Israeli science curriculum in primary and junior high school, if the goal is to prepare the rising generation for life in a scientific-technological era. From deeper analysis of the results curricular, behavioral, and organizational changes needed to reach this goal were formulated. KEY WORDS:

Interest, junior high biology school students, biology.

Introduction As stated by Osborne, Simon and Collins (2003), "the investigation of students' attitudes towards studying science has been a substantive feature of the work of the science education research community for the past 30-40 years" (p. 1049). The importance of this investigation is stressed by a persistent decline in post-compulsory high school science enrolment over the last two decades. Concern has been voiced in many countries, including the UK (Smithers & Robinson, 1988), Australia (Dekkers & DeLaetter, 2001), Canada (Bordt, DeBroucker, Read, Harris & Zhang, 2001), India (Garg & Gupta, 2003), Japan (Goto, 2001), the USA (National Science Foundation, 2002), and every country in the European Union (Commission of European Communities, 2001). Students' increasing reluctance to choose science courses in their final years of secondary education has serious adverse implications for the health of scientific endeavour, but also for the scientific literacy of future generations. The endorsement of positive attitudes to science, scientists, and learning science, which has always been a constituent of science education, is


ROSE (The Relevance of Science Education) is an international project with about 40 participating countries. ROSE is organized by Svein Sjøberg and Camilla Schreiner at the University of Oslo and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. Reports and details are available at http://www.ils.uio.no/english/rose/


Ricardo Trumper

increasingly a subject of concern. Many science educators attribute great importance to the affective domain (Baker & Doran, 1975; Schibeci, 1984; Gardner, 1985, 1998; Sjøberg, 2002, Oh & Yager, 2004). Shulman and Tamir (1973) argued that the affective outcomes of science instruction are at least as important as their cognitive counterparts. The affective domain is characterized by a variety of constructs, such as attitudes, preferences, and interests. Researchers' definitions of these constructs vary and consequently may be confusing. As reported extensively in the literature, students' early positive attitude to science subjects changes markedly in the upper grades, especially in chemistry and physics (Graber, 1993). Simpson, Koballa, Oliver and Crawley, (1994) published an extensive review on students' attitudes towards different science subjects. Generally, a negative attitude to a subject leads to lack of interest, and when subjects can be selected, as in senior high school, to avoiding the subject or course. Furthermore, a positive attitude to science "leads to a positive commitment to science that influences lifelong interest and learning in science" (Simpson & Oliver, 1990, p. 14). This is a reason why major science education reform efforts have...
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