The effect of instruction by a professional scientist on the acquisition of integrated process skills and the science-related attitudes of eighth-grade students

Katharine Donner Owens

Abstract

This study investigated the effect of instruction by a professional scientist on the acquisition of science integrated process skills and the science-related attitudes of eighth-grade students. Eighty-two students from four intact classes in south Mississippi junior high schools participated in this study. Two experimental groups were taught a problem solving curriculum over a six week period by professional chemists; one experimental group had an additional six weeks of instruction by a professional engineer. Two control groups had science instruction by their classroom teachers. Homogeneity of the groups related to basic skills and science attitudes was determined and students drew their perception of a scientist before any instruction began. At the end of the intervention period students in all groups were given the Test of Science-Related Attitudes, the Test of Integrated Process Skills II, and a Draw-A-Scientist Test. The statistical procedures of the Wilks Lambda MANOVA, a univariate post hoc test, a split plot analysis of variance, and a one-way analysis of variance were used to test the hypotheses at the 0.05 significance level. Students' drawings of scientists were analyzed for the presence of stereotypic characteristics. Scores on all tests were analyzed according to gender and to group membership. There was a statistically significant difference in the science-related attitudes and the acquisition of science process skills between treatment groups. The experimental group taught by a professional chemist for six weeks scored higher on the test of process skills and had more positive attitudes toward careers in science and the normality of scientists than the control groups. There was a significant decline in stereotypic characteristics seen in the drawings of scientists by students who had longer instruction by two professional scientists. There was no statistically significant difference between male and female students and no interaction effect between gender and group on the tested variables. The results of this study suggest that students' acquisition of process skills, their perceptions of scientists, and their science-related attitudes may be enhanced when instruction in problem-solving by a professional scientist takes place in the classroom.