An investigation of students' perceptions of teacher support and equity in the classroom and their impact on students' attitude towards science
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This study investigated the relationship between students’ perceptions of learning environments and their attitude to science in Australian secondary schools. It focussed on teacher support and equity in the lower secondary school years of 8, 9, and 10. Teacher Support and Equity are two of the five scales of the What Is Happening In this Class (WIHIC) questionnaire. The scale to measure Attitude to Science was drawn from the Test of Science Related Attitudes (TOSRA). Using the statistical package SPSS, gender differences and year level differences were examined for each of the scales. Results showed that the females rated the scales of Teacher Support and Equity more highly than did the males but the males had a more positive attitude to science than did the females. The Year 9 students were considerably less positive than those from years 8 and 10 on all three scales. Of the three scales, Equity received the highest rating across all the groups, while Attitude scored the lowest. Regression analysis showed statistically significant and positive associations between Attitude to Science and the Teacher Support and Equity scales. These results were consistent when tested separately for the male and female students, and for each of the year levels. To gain insights into science teaching and learning from a teacher’s perspective, one primary teacher, two high school teachers, and one pre-service teacher were interviewed. Their comments were found to support the quantitative results in that they agreed that teacher actions or inactions within the learning environment would affect the students’ attitude to science.They expressed the view that students needed to feel able to ask questions without criticism and receive the help they needed to progress, which corresponded to the Teacher Support scale. They also felt that it was not appropriate for teachers to favour any group of students over any other, thus supporting the concept of the Equity scale. The findings will assist teachers to develop strategies to address the problem of students’ declining attitude to science, a problem that is viewed as a potential threat to the economic future of Australia.
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