33 SES 13 A, A Review of Research Studies on Gender Issues
Germany has had a shortage of skilled workers in the STEM sector for years. This is already evident in the choice of study courses; statistics show that out of approximately three million students, only 10% have chosen to study scientific subjects (Federal Statistical Office, 2020). This is accompanied by a massive gender gap; more men study scientific subjects, especially in physics and chemistry, which leads to fewer women with full-time scientific careers. One reason for the shortage of skilled workers could be a decline in interest in the sciences during school years (Ferdinand, 2014). Students make decisions about future careers as early as the age of 12 (Lindahl, 2003; Maltese & Tai, 2010). If students are not interested in science subjects, they are less likely to choose a science career. Students who continue their school career in fields other than science are characterized by lower scientific competency and scientific interest. Both factors can be traced to negative experiences in science lessons throughout 5th and 6th grade and the perceived irrelevance of the content (Merzyn, 2010; Cleaves, 2005). Recent studies show that girls lose interest in science and science-related careers during lower secondary school and that they do not see themselves as capable of pursuing such a profession (Kang, Hense, Scheersoi, Keinonen, 2018; Todd & Zvoch, 2019).
Inquiry-based science teaching has been shown to promote domain-specific interest, interest in pursuing a science career and self-concept (Kang & Keinonen, 2017; Potvin & Hasni, 2014). Yet, little research has been conducted on the extent to which this approach could support these aspects for girls. Therefore, we aim to use an inquiry-based teaching model within scientific profile classes. Students attend these classes from 5th to 7th grade and with additional teaching, take on the role and experience when it would be like to work as a scientist. By applying the scientific method, they formulate hypotheses to questions, investigate them and analyze their results. In addition, students learn about scientific topics in a context that is relevant to everyday life. Furthermore, the concept of profile classes is characterized by mandatory extracurricular activities, which have been shown to influence interest and career decisions in girls (Todd & Zvoch, 2019). This study investigates the extent to which profile classes promote interest and self-concept in girls during their school career, which could possibly predict later career choices in the natural sciences.
Students in profile classes (n = 66, 50% female) and regular classes (n=10, 100% female) answered a questionnaire at three time points to look at the effectiveness of profile classes. Using a rating scale, eight items pertained to scientific interest (“I enjoy studying scientific topics.”; Schreiner & Sjøberg, 2004) and seven to ability self-concept (“According to my own assessment, my performance in the natural sciences is…”; Hofmann, Häußler & Lehrke, 1998). Data was collected at the beginning of the 2019/20 school year (t0), at the beginning of 2020 (t1) and at the end of the school year in 2020 (t2).
An analysis of variance showed that scientific interest and ability self-concept significantly decreased over the course of the school year (F(2,128 ) = 14,239, p = .000, partial η² = .182; effect size: 0.472; F(2,124 ) = 10,903, p = .000, partial η² = .150; effect size: 0.420, respec-tively). Gender had no influence on either dimension. A descriptive analysis shows that the mean scores of interest and ability self-concept (the latter only for testing points t1 and t2) is slightly higher in girls than boys. There was no influence of class type, however, values of agreement of girls in profile classes are higher than those in regular classes. Profile classes do not appear to positively influence interest; instead we see a decline in scientific interest, which has been supported a previous study (Höft et al., 2019). It is noteworthy to mention that in our sample, girls tended to show a slightly stronger scientific interest than boys, lead-ing us to conclude that profile classes might have a positive effect on interest in girls. As girls in profile classes were more interested in science than girls in regular classes, we infer that inquiry-based approaches are beneficial for girls (Kang & Keinonen, 2017). Although our sample size is small, this study contributes to the potential of using open inquiry-based approaches to increase interest and self-concept in girls in profile classes.
Cleaves, A. (2005). The formation of science choices in secondary school. International Journal of Science Education, 27(4), 471-486. Federal Statistical Office (2020). Students by area of study. Retrieved from: https://www.destatis.de/EN/Themes/Society-Environment/Education-Research-Culture/Institutions-Higher-Education/Tables/total-area-study-winter-term.html Ferdinand, H. (2014). Entwicklung von Fachinteresse: Längsschnittstudie zu Interessenver-läufen und Determinanten positiver Entwicklung in der Schule. Münster [u.a.] : Waxmann. Hofmann, L., Häußler, P., & Lehrke, M. (1998). IPN-Interessenstudie Physik. Kiel : IPN. Höft, L., Bernholt, S., Blankenburg, J.S., & Winberg, M. (2019). Knowing More about Things You Care Less about: Cross-sectional Analysis of the Opposing Trend and Inter-play between Conceptual Understanding and Interest in Secondary School Chemistry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 56 (2), 184–210. Kang, J. & Keinonen, T. (2017). The effect of inquiry-based learning experiences on adoles-cents’ science-related career aspiration in the Finnish context. International Journal of Science Education, 39(12), 1669-1689. Kang, J., Hense, J., Scheersoi, A., & Keinonen, T. (2018). Gender study in the relationships between science interest and future career perspectives. International Journal of Science Education, 41(1), 80-101. Lindahl, B. (2003). Pupils’ responses to school science and technology? A longitudinal study of pathways to upper secondary school. English summary of a dissertation. Retrieved From: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237722627_Pupils'_responses_to_school_science_and_technology_A_longitudinal_study_of_pathways_to_upper_secondary_school Maltese A., & Tai, R. (2010). Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of early interest in science. International Journal of Science Education, 32(5), 669-685 Merzyn, G. (2008). Naturwissenschaften, Mathematik, Technik – immer unbeliebter? Die Konkurrenz von Schulfächern um das Interesse der Jugend im Spiegel vielfältiger Unter-suchungen. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren Potvin, P. & Hasni, A. (2014). Interest, motivation and attitude towards science and technol-ogy at K-12 levels: a systematic review of 12 years of educational research. Studies in Science Education, 50(1), 85-129. Schreiner C., & Sjøberg, S. (2004). Sowing the seeds of ROSE. Background, Rationale, Questionnaire Development and Data Collection for ROSE (The Relevance of Science Education) – a comparative study of students’ views of science and science education (pdf) (Acta Didactica 4/2004). Oslo: Dept. of Teacher Education and School Develop-ment, University of Oslo. Todd, B. L. & Zvoch, K. (2019). The effect of an informal science intervention on middle school girls’ science affinities. International Journal of Science Education, 41(1), 102-122.
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