How does culture shape students’ perceptions of scientists? Cross-national comparative study of American and Chinese elementary students
- 368 Downloads
For decades, researchers have been convinced that one stereotypic image of scientists existed among children worldwide (Chambers, 1983; Chiang & Guo, 1996; Fung, 2002; Maoldomhnaigh & Hunt, 1988; Newton & Newton, 1992, 1998; She, 1998; Song, Pak, & Jang, 1992). This study, however, moves beyond that stereotypic image and examines students’ perceptions of scientists. The purpose of this study is to illustrate that students are influenced not only by the personal images they hold of scientists, but also by cultural impressions and the style of the science courses they experience in school. By combining a contemporary perspective and a creative method of analyzing student perceptions, a theoretical understanding of how students interpret scientists and their work was developed. Elementary school children (N=1,350) in the United States and China were enrolled in this study, and drawing exercises were utilized to provide new evidence and a fresh perspective regarding the way students perceive scientists. Based on the findings of this research, more American students included the traditional image of a science laboratory with chemicals in their pictorial depictions of scientists, while Chinese students included robots in their drawings. While students in both countries demonstrated misconceptions about scientists, this study identifies those misconceptions as significantly different, yet inherently related, to students’ individual cultures, contrary to previous studies. This study also demonstrates that a child’s environment can be influenced by their existing culture, and thus learning, or perceiving the role of scientists, can be directly influenced since each classroom is a culture of its own. Finally, this study demonstrates that a child’s sense of who can be a scientist, where scientists work, and what scientists do is influenced by cultural experiences. Today, with fewer students pursuing science careers, these findings are especially noteworthy.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Asia Society. (2006).Math and science education in a global age: What the U.S. can learn from China. New York: Author.Google Scholar
- Barman, C. (1996). Do students really view science and scientists?Science and Children, 34(1), 30–33.Google Scholar
- Barman, C. (1997). Students’ views of scientists and science: Results from a national study.Science and Children, 35(1), 18–23.Google Scholar
- Bruner, J. (1996).The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Chiang, C., & Guo, C. J. (1996).A study of images of the scientist for elementary school children. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, St. Louis, Missouri.Google Scholar
- Farland, D. (2003).Modified draw-a-scientist test. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Lowell.Google Scholar
- Farland, D., & McComas, W. (2006).Deconstructing the DAST: Development of a valid and reliable tool for assessing students’ perceptions of scientists. Paper presented at the Association of Science Teacher Education Conference, Clearwater, FL.Google Scholar
- Finson, K. D., Beaver, J. B., & Cramond, B. L. (1995). Development and field test of a checklist for the draw-a-scientist test.School Science and Mathematics, 95(4), 195–205.Google Scholar
- Roach, L. E., & Wandersee, J. H. (1993). Short story science: Using historical vignettes as a teaching tool.Science Teacher, 60(6), 18–21.Google Scholar
- Song, J., Pak, S., & Jang, K. (1992). Attitudes of boys and girls in elementary and secondary schools towards science lessons and scientists.Journal of the Koran Association for Research in Science Education, 12, 109–118.Google Scholar
- Zhang, B., Krajcik, J., Sutherland, L., Wang, L., Wu, J., & Qian, Y. (2005). Opportunities and challenges of China’s inquiry-based education reform in middle and high schools: Perspectives of science teachers and teacher educators.International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 1(4), 477–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar