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Jeanine M. Vignone/Felician College, 2008-2009

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The Effect of Attitude during the Maturation of Female Students during the Middle-School Years on their Achievement in Science. Jeanine M. Vignone/Felician College, 2008-2009. Interest.

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The Effect of Attitude during the Maturation of Female Students during the Middle-School Years on their Achievement in Science

Jeanine M. Vignone/Felician College, 2008-2009


I attended an NSTA Convention where Sally Ride gave a lecture where she spoke about engaging girls in the fields of science, mathematics, and technology, primarily in the fifth through eighth grades. She placed an emphasis on the significance of becoming a good role model for female students and developing and encouraging a positive attitude towards the field of science.


Sally Ride’s research on the topic of girls and science was enlightening. She reported that data, “from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveal that approximately the same number of girls as boys in the 4th grade enjoy math and science, yet boys in the 8th grade are twice as likely to be interested in math and science than girls of the same age.” (“A key part of our corporate mission is to make a difference in girls’ lives,”

the test
The Test

I asked each incoming fifth grade class from 2004-2008 to draw a scientist. As of March 2008, the total population of students who drew a scientist equaled 298 samples.

2004 – 179 students 2005 - 32 students

2006 - 35 students 2007 - 34 students

2008 - 18 students

249 students drew samples that resembled the following…

the test1
The Test
  • It is clear to see that students, both male and female, upon entering the fifth grade science class, have already developed a stereotype as to who and what a scientist is.
    • He is male
    • He wears glasses
    • He has crazy hair
    • He wears a lab coat
    • He works with chemicals.
Question ?

Is there effect of interest and/or attitude during the maturation of female students during the middle-school years on their achievement in Science?


This study was developed in the efforts to test attitude and interest towards science, and to show that in fact, a correlation between negative attitude and a decline in science achievement does exist; With negative attitudes developing more so during the middle-school years.

background information
Background Information
  • The “Technology Boom” took flight in the early 1900’s and has not slowed in the ensuing years. Due to constant changes in science and technology, today, by and large all types of employment require at least a basic understanding of science/technology. Our students must be scientifically educated to have a wider range of choices and opportunities in high school and college, leading them to the workplace.
background information1
Background Information
  • In brief, we learn from early history that women were considered less than equal to man in all aspects of life, especially education. It was rare, in early times that a girl was offered an education.
    • In Ancient Greece, boys, irregardless of their social or socioeconomic status, began their education at age seven. Girls on the other-hand, not only attended to the household chores, but also had the responsibility of tending to the farming duties while the boys either attended school, or required military training.
    • In the 1800’s, wealthier girls were educated, at home by their mother or a hired teacher. It was a simple education of basic reading, language, and basic math. It was more focused on etiquette and home economics.
    • Education for women basically remained static into the next one hundred years.
background information2
Background Information
  • Although very small strides were made educationally for women during the first sixty years of the twentieth century, and more women did enter higher education programs, they rarely did so in the science fields. During the 1970’s, feminist groups such as NOW (National Organization for Women), founded by Betty Freidan, became very popular endorsing equal rights for women, especially in education and employment. It was apparent that girls were falling behind in math and science, and biology was believed to have been the major factor.
review of literature
Review of Literature
  • The biological factor is not something new when discussing the abilities of girls and boys academically. It has been stated in countless journals and studies for decades, that girls are better at verbal communication and boys are better when it comes to logical abilities. “Remember when girl’s shortcomings in math and science were explained by the math “gene”? Biology seemed to determine destiny.
review of literature1
Review of Literature
  • There was a general perception that girls’ performance on standardized math tests could be attributed to biological differences.” (Kekelis, L., and Heber, E., 2001. Pg. 5, p3). The innate debate has continued well into the present. However, perhaps it should be considered that equal opportunity for women to enter the educational system as an equal to boys has just really taken hold in the last thirty-forty years.
review of literature2
Review of Literature
  • Current research studies suggest that many factors contribute to the attitudes, access, and achievement of young women in mathematics and science: encouragement from parents, preparations of mathematics and science teachers, interactions between teachers and students, curriculum content, hands-on laboratory experiences, self-concept, attitudes toward mathematics, high-school achievement in mathematics and science, availability of mentors, and resources available at home. (NCES, 1997).
review of literature3
Review of Literature
  • The percentage of girls who say they like science from 4th to 8th to 12th grade drops from 66% to 47% to 40%,
review of literature4
Review of Literature
  • “A lot of attention has focused on the so-called “math and science gap” between boys and girls. The truth is that girls and boys start their education with equal interest and ability in math and science. But over time, a higher percentage of girls drift away from these subjects, even though they have not lost their aptitude for them. Early adolescence is a critical period for shaping attitudes and outlooks. Research shows that during this time many girls turn away from math and science.” (Ride, S., 2006).
review of literature5
Review of Literature
  • In March, 2006, Miller, P., Blessing, J., S., & Schwartz, S., conducted a study that researched “Gender Differences in High-school Students’ Views about Science”. This study examined gender differences in 79 high-school students’ attitudes towards their science classes, their perceptions of science and scientists, and their views about majoring in science. The study identified some of the subtleties underlying females’ low participation in, and interest in, science documented in previous research.
  • The finding from this research found that it appears that females’ rejection of science is not related to a perception that it is too hard or not fitting the female gender role; they simply do not find it interesting or relevant to their life goals.
  • Component One:

The first part of the research conducted, a comparison of female students was evaluated on their science grades from 2nd grade through 8th grade. Convenience samples of 32 participants were evaluated. The participants were recent graduates of a private, Catholic, middle-school, located in an urban setting outside of Newark, New Jersey. Of the 32 female students, 50% were Caucasian and 50% Hispanic. All participants were from a regular classroom; none were receiving special education services.

  • Component One:
    • A comparison of yearly average science grades from 2nd grade through 8th grade was evaluated using a convenience sampling of the female student population that had completed their studies in science from the years of 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.
    • Student Life cards were reviewed and the yearly average for science for each grade was recorded.
  • Component One:
  • The results for the comparison of grades 2-8 for female students for the subject of science did not decline. In fact, the mean basically was stable for grades 3-8 at the 85% average.
  • For second grade the mean was the highest at 91%. The second highest mean was during the eighth grade at 88.9%.
  • However, the results do reveal that female science students are in the average percentile for science achievement. Not one grade average reached the high percentile with an average in the “A” or “A+” category.
  • While the study did not show a decline in science achievement during the middle-school years as thought by the researcher, it does show that female students are achieving average science grades, as opposed to excelling in science academics.

Component Two:

  • The second part of the research included the survey component, and a different convenience sample of 34 female students participated in the completion of the WISS survey tool, 5th through 8th grade.

Fifth Grade: 10 Participants

Sixth Grade: 10 Participants

Seventh Grade: 6 Participants

Eighth Grade: 8 Participants

  • The female students were from a private, Catholic, middle-school. The school was located in an urban setting outside of Newark, New Jersey. The female population consisted of about 50% Caucasian and 50% Hispanic. The age-range of the population varied from 11-14 years old; 5th through 8th grade. All participants were from a regular classroom; none were receiving special education services.
  • Component Two:
    • The completion of the WISS survey was used to evaluate female students on their interest/attitude towards science.
    • The WISS tool was used by the researcher; 27 Items each using a 3 point scale ranging from agree-disagree-Don’t Know.
  • Component Two: (Sample)
internal validity
Internal Validity
  • The researcher was the students’ science teacher. There were many discussions with the students with regard to the researcher’s theories and concerns with regard to female students and science. These discussions could have affected the outcome of the survey.
  • Secondly, a majority of the fifth and sixth grade students did not understand many of the questions asked throughout dimension three of the WISS and marked “I don’t Know”.
  • Lastly, the survey allowed only three possible answers limiting the students’ options for possible answers in gray areas.
external validity
External Validity
  • The external validity during this particular research could be the participation of a small sample obtained from one geographical location, limiting the study of the cause-effect relationship. In other words, a large sample from all different geographical locations would greatly improve the research, with the addition of different environmental and cultural backgrounds.
  • Component Two:
    • Overall, when analyzing the data retrieved from the WISS survey, there was no concrete evidence that there was a correlation between attitude and science achievement.
    • However, certain questions on an individual basis did seem to stand out and show a certain attitude, such as question 1B, where female students agreed that men are more qualified to become scientists than women.
  • Figure 4.2 – Dimension I – Question 1B
  • Furthermore, found in Question 1G, the female students also agreed that women are not reliable enough to hold up top positions in scientific and technical fields.
  • Lastly, when asked questions that involved marriage, family, and career, the results tended to be closer in margin, such as in question 2F, “getting married is the most important thing in a women’s life”, and question 2H, “for a women it is more important to be a successful wife and mother than it is to be successful in careers.
  • In the present study, the data did not show evidence of attitude/interest and a decline in the subject of science for the middle-school female population.
  • However, there was evidence of one vital aspect concluded during the research; Female students are achieving average science grades as opposed to excelling in science academics, with a mean of 85%, compared to the male student population with a mean of 93% for a yearly average in science.
  • The following research has left many unanswered questions that require need further research.
    • The researcher would like to extend the study and not only include a larger sample in many different geographical locations, but also the inclusion of male students in middle school to also answer a survey related to the WISS, and analyze the attitude of male students towards women and science.
    • The researcher would exclude the fifth grade as part of the study, as all the questions were not understood by this population of female students.
    • Further research should include the comparison of male students for science achievement by also analyzing yearly grade averages after grammar school completion for second through eighth grade as well.
    • Additionally, the research that included the WISS should be re-formatted to include a scale 1-5, rather than agree, disagree, and I don’t know. This would be a major area of change, as it is believed to have affected the results tremendously. With a rating scale of 1-5, it is believed the results would have showed a difference with leaning towards average attitude/interest scores rather than mostly high interest due to only the choice of agree or disagree.

In 1992, Mattel Toys put the first talking Barbie doll on the market. Barbie’s first words were, “Math class is tough”. Many parents and teachers, thought, Barbie should keep her mouth shut. As a result, Barbie stopped talking. (NNCC, 1998). Thank-you