Year 7 attitudes to School Science, Technology and Mathematics; What do the students really think about these school subjects?

Year: 2017

Author: Kennedy, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent government and educational rhetoric might readily be interpreted as indicating that there is presently a crisis within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields of education, particularly in the upper years of high school. In response, independent agencies, universities and schools have rolled out a plethora of initiatives to address the perceived issues in this area, primarily with a stated goal of improving engagement with STEM subjects. However, the question remains, "when in a student's school career is the most effective point to impact on their learning?"

Many educational researchers have noted the link between positive student attitudes towards school and a student's desire to continue with learning in certain subjects beyond the compulsory years of schooling. However, measuring student attitudes is notoriously difficult-especially when given the number of school and non-school based influencers acting on students-and makes forming even a basic understanding of an attitudes benchmark arduous. In this study the work of Kennedy, Quinn and Taylor (2016), in developing an attitudinal measurement tool, is applied and presents the initial findings of a quantitative, New South Wales, cross-sectional study of the attitudinal profiles of Year 7 students from a variety of schools across the state. The attitudinal profiles of students with strong positive attitudes to STEM are compared with those with negative profiles and similarities and differences are considered. Through a dynamic graphical analysis, it is shown that positive attitudes to STEM subjects are formed very early in high school and maintained through access to opportunities for authentic learning and the enthusiasm of teachers and similar role models.