Measuring student attitudes towards school using a new digital instrument

Year: 2017

Author: Kennedy, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One interpretation of cognitive behavioural theory suggests that a student's positive attitudes towards school lead to positive actions in the future such as further study or later employment. For example, it is often suggested that students become disenchanted with school science in the early years of secondary school which in turn leads to a reduced likelihood of studying engineering or the allied sciences at the tertiary level. The current, well-documented decline in senior high-school engagement with Mathematics, the Sciences and Technology therefore requires an understanding of student attitudes towards both these subjects and schooling more widely if these declines are to be addressed.

This presentation details the development and trialling of a digital survey instrument that can be deployed in schools and across school systems to capture the attitudes of students towards their academic subjects and to track these over time. The rich data produced by this instrument allows for both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses to be performed whilst minimising the time investment by participants. A series of Attitudinal Profiles can be generated for each key learning area, subject, or student that allows educators and policy makers alike to better understand why, when and how student attitudes change towards a subject of interest. In addition, similar and contrasting Attitudinal Profiles can be compared to identify trends, key turning points and common factors that might be able to be addressed by policies at the local or national level. It is through rich analyses such as these that the most suitable timing for the implementation of specific intervention strategies and policies can be assessed and the possibilities of positive outcomes maximised.