Australian students' attitudes to learning about Asia

Year: 2004

Author: Griffin, Patrick, Woods, Kerry, Dulhunty, Mark

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This study aimed to measure Australian students' attitudes to learning about Asia, and to identify contextual factors related to development of positive attitudes. Participants were 3,359 Year 5 and 3,773 Year 8 students, and 107 Year 5 and 114 Year 8 teachers. Study area experts chose attitude statements for the research instrument to cover a range of expected attitudes (Bloom, 1964); students responded on dichotomous response scales. Item response modelling (Rasch, 1960) and the technology of test construction allowed common item anchoring (Wright & Stone, 1979) to map all items and students onto a single underpinning scale, and attitudes were described in profiles containing five levels. At the highest level, and for most students, there was keen interest in learning about Asia, but a minority of students expressed strongly negative attitudes. There were clear relationships between attitudes and student year and gender. Year 5 students were more positive than Year 8 students; girls were more positive than boys. Boys' attitudes were particularly sensitive to teachers' classroom practices and the variety of resources to which they were given access. Information provided by this study could thus prove of value to educators wishing to improve students', and especially boys', interest in learning.