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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
STUDENTS' SCIENCE ATTITUDES IN THE PERFORMANCE-BASED CLASSROOM: DID WE CLOSE THE GENDER GAP?
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California 93407
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
In this study we investigated the assumption that girls will benefit from performance-based (i.e., hands-on) science classrooms by examining changes in students' attitudes toward science over the school year when students learn in such classrooms. In performance-based classrooms, students spend less time on memorizing scientific facts and instead spend more class time thinking and learning about science through hands-on experiences that focus on the development of science inquiry or process skills (e.g., hypothesizing, observing, recording data, and making inferences) (National Research Council, 1996). The present sample included 165 students (53% female, mean age = 12.21) in six 5th- through 8th-grade science classrooms. The teachers associated with these classrooms were nominated by teacher educators as "exemplary" hands-on science teachers. At the beginning and end of the school year, students responded to items indexing their task value beliefs regarding science, their perceived science ability, and their gender role perceptions regarding male and female participation in the science classroom. We also measured students' science-related experience prior to the start of the school year. We expected to find, within grade level, irrespective of previous science experience, diminished differences between boys' and girls' science attitudes across the school year. Our findings, however, did not entirely support this expectation. Instead, we found that in performance-based science classrooms gender differences persisted, suggesting that boys and girls had differing experiences in these classrooms.
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