An investigation of gender and grade-level differences in middle school students' attitudes about science, in science process skills ability, and in parental expectations of their children's science performance
The primary purpose of the study was to examine different variables (i.e. science process skill ability, science attitudes, and parents' levels of expectation for their children in science, which may impinge on science education differently for males and females in grades five, seven, and nine. The research question addressed by the study was: What are the differences between science process skill ability, science attitudes, and parents' levels of expectation in science on the academic success of fifth, seventh, and ninth graders in science and do effects differ according to gender and grade level? The subjects included fifth, seven, and ninth grade students ( n = 543) and their parents (n = 474) from six rural, public elementary schools and two rural, public middle schools in Southern Mississippi. A two-way (grade x gender) multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to determine the differences in science process skill abilities of females and males in grade five, seven, and nine. An additional separate two-way multivariate analysis of variance (grade x gender) was also used to determine the differences in science attitudes of males and females in grade five, seven, and nine. A separate analysis of variance (PPSEX [parent's gender]) with the effects being parents' gender was used to determine differences in parents' levels of expectation for their childrens' performance in science. An additional separate analysis of variance (SSEX [student's gender]) with the effects being the gender of the student was also used to determine differences in parents' levels of expectation for their childrens' performance in science. Results of the analyses indicated significant main effects for grade level (p <.001) and gender (p <.001) on the TIPS II. There was no significant grade by gender interaction on the TIPS II. Results for the TOSRA also indicated a significant main effect for grade (p <.001) and the interaction of grade by sex ( p <.001). On variable ATT 5 (enjoyment of science lessons), males' attitudes toward science decreased across the grade levels; whereas, females decreased from grade five to seven, but showed a significant increase from grade seven to nine. Results from the analysis of variance with the parent's gender as the main effect showed no significant difference. The analysis of variance with student's gender as the main effect showed no significant difference.