New research into the declining numbers of pupils choosing to study science across Europe reveals schools and teachers shape their attitudes.
The University of Leicester study led by Professor Tina Jarvis of the School of Education investigated how young children’s ideas of science and technology develop.
Professor Jarvis said: “There is a concern that there have been declining numbers of pupils choosing to study science in Europe. There is evidence that the decline in attitudes to science starts in the primary school and is particularly noticeable for girls.
“EU countries need to educate both potential scientists of the future and all citizens to enable them to engage with socio-scientific issues. In this context, it is important to study attitudes to science as they influence pupils’ choice of careers and attainment.”
Professor Jarvis will present details of her research at an inaugural lecture today (Tuesday 17 March) at the University of Leicester.
Her lecture, 'Changing European primary pupils' and their teachers' attitudes to science' starts at 5.30pm and will be held in Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building. It is open to the public and free. A reception will follow at 6.30pm in the Park Side Lounge on the fifth floor of the Charles Wilson Building.
The presentation documents Professor Jarvis’ investigations into how young children’s ideas of science and technology develop. Initially pupils have a narrow or erroneous view of both science and technology. One important factor that influences their development is the school and training of teachers.
Further research in the early 1990s led Professor Jarvis to explore the relationship between pupils’ and teachers’ attitudes’ and cognition during a major 2-year in-service programme in the City of Leicester schools.
Four types of teacher were identified, who needed different types of science in-service. A relationship was found between the teacher types and the rate of development of pupils’ science understanding and their attitudes. The importance of the teachers’ attitude to science was confirmed through additional research undertaken at the National Space Centre in Leicester.
All research findings were applied in a new EU funded in-service project involving 12 countries: Pollen Seed Cities for Europe: A Community Approach for Sustainable Growth of Science Education in Europe (2006-09). The City of Leicester is the UK’s Seed City.
The presentation also looks at some of the differences in teachers’ confidence and attitudes to science in the different countries and to what extent the in-service programme has been able to change them.
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