African-American college student attitudes toward physics and their effect on achievement

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Joe B. Whitehead

Advisor Department

Physics and Astronomy


The purpose of this study was to investigate factors affecting the attitudes that African-American college students have towards introductory college physics. The population targeted for this study consisted of African-American males and females enrolled in introductory college physics classes at an urban public historical black college or university (HBCU) located in the southeastern United States. Nine of the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scales, modified for physics, were used to analyze the attitudes of the 135 participants enrolled in an introductory college physics class. The nine scales used to measure the students' attitudes were Attitude Toward Success in Physics Scale (AS), The Physics as a Male Domain Scale (MD), The Mother Scale (M), The Father Scale (F), The Teacher Scale (T), The Confidence in Learning Physics Scale (C), The Physics Anxiety Scale (A), The Effectance Motivation Scale in Physics (E), and The Physics Usefulness Scale (U). Hypothesis I states that there is a significant difference in the domain scores of African-American college students in the Fennema-Sherman Math Attitudes Scales adapted for physics. It was found using a repeated measures ANOVA that there was a significant difference between the attitudes of African- Americans on the nine attitude scales of the Fennema-Sherman Math Attitude Scales, F(8,992) = 43.09, p < .001. Hypothesis II states that there is a statistically significant difference in domain scores between African-American males and African-American females in the Fennema-Sherman Attitude Scales. It was found using a MANOVA that there was not a significant difference between the domain scores of African-American males and African-American females, F(8, 116) = .38, p > .05. Hypothesis III states that there is a statistically significant relationship between attitude towards physics and achievement for African-American students. The students with good attitudes toward physics would have a higher level of achievement. The multiple linear regression analysis revealed that there was a significant relationship between a good attitude toward physics and achievement in the class. The result of the analysis implied that 18.9% of the grade could be explained by the domain scales.