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Students’ Perceptions of High School Science: What has Changed Over the Last Decade?

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Abstract

This paper presents comparative questionnaire data from three different samples of Australian high school students in an attempt to see if anything has changed in relation to how they perceive the science they experience in the compulsory years of secondary school (grades 7–10). Questionnaire data were obtained from 1,585 high school students in 2011 and 2,016 students in 2005 and findings are compared with those reported in a national report (Goodrum et al. 2001). Results show significant increases in the frequency with which students report that their science teacher takes notice of their ideas and in the use of computers and the Internet. There have also been changes regarding the rapid provision of feedback, the use of understandable language by teachers and the contextualisation of the new work in terms of work already covered. Little appears to have changed, however, in relation to the teacher-directed pedagogies employed to teach science where there appears to be a higher incidence of copying notes and fewer opportunities for students to investigate topics in which they are interested. The findings suggest that while there have been some positive changes, there are still many students who indicate that the science they experience in secondary school is irrelevant to their everyday life and to their future. It seems that the curiosity and wonder one would hope is associated with studying science is missing for a large proportion of students. It is clear that further actions need to be undertaken to transform this continuing situation.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the three projects from which the student data are drawn: Space to Grow Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (grant number: LP0989264); The Eye Observatory Remote Telescope Project: Practical Astronomy for Years 7, 8 and 9—funded by the Department of Education, Science and Training; and, The Status and Quality of Teaching and Learning Science in Australian Schools- funded by the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. We also thank each of the jurisdictions, the schools, the teachers and the students involved in this research.

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Correspondence to Lena Danaia.

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Danaia, L., Fitzgerald, M. & McKinnon, D. Students’ Perceptions of High School Science: What has Changed Over the Last Decade?. Res Sci Educ 43, 1501–1515 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-012-9318-x

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