Carolyn A. Hayes, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis




Providing an equitable classroom environment has been the focus of studies to improve females’ perception of science and the viability of science as a career.  Equity programs demonstrating the principles of constructivism that are found within the National Science Education Standards (NSES) have resulted in positive changes in females.  This study examined the relationship between classroom practice that adheres to the NSES and the development of positive attitudes toward science in seventh grade girls.  Utilizing interviews, the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol and the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey, the implementation of the NSES in middle school science classrooms of teachers who had experienced the NSES in their science methods class and of teachers who did not have NSES presented in their science methods class was measured.  Results from the Attitude Toward Science survey, the Draw-A-Scientist Test and interviews completed by the middle school students were compared to the implementation of the NSES.  There were no significant differences in attitude toward science in females enrolled in the NSES methods classroom and the no NSES methods classroom.  Qualitative data revealed factors in the science classroom environment that appear to influence positive female attitudes toward science.  When females are given opportunities to try different methodologies in solving problems, opportunities to share and test ideas, and opportunities to voice their opinions about their learning positive attitudes toward science are formed.  These factors are found embedded in teaching standards A, B and E of the NSES.  Knowledge about the impact of these standards on female attitudes can be utilized not only in the science classroom but also in professional development and pre-service opportunities for educators.




Reports such as Shortchanging Girls: Shortchanging America (American

Association of University Women (AAUW), 1994) and Educational Equity for Girls

& Women (Bae, Choy, Geddes, Sable, and Snyder, 2000; Freeman, 2004) indicated gender differences in science attitudes still occur and these differences determined whether a student elects to pursue science and engineering as a career. Data collected from fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders not only illustrated an overall trend of declining attitudes toward science and perceptions of being able to do science but also an increase in the differences between male and females as a student gets older (National Science Foundation (NSF), 2000; Bae, et al., 2000). In addition, the data revealed a connection of positive attitudes and aspirations of science careers in females. The identification of a teacher’s behavior in the classroom toward her students and the structure of the curriculum are seen as the means to promote gender equity.

The idea of providing a more gender equitable classroom is not a new concept, but the difficulty lies in trying to determine the pedagogy that will connect with girls and prove to bring about positive attitudes toward science.  Mason & Kahle (1988) revealed that intervention strategies focusing on gender equity brought about change in girls’ attitude, participation, and interest in science. Even with the knowledge that societal attitudes toward science and appropriate gender roles have a great influence on students, they recognized that a change in the classroom environment could be effective in eliminating gender differences as a result of their research. 

The awareness of boys’ and girls’ attitude toward science and their active participation in the science classroom has caused teachers and researchers to acquire more information about this relationship of gender and science. A conceptual framework describing this relationship and the factors involved was proposed by Kahle, Parker, Rennie and Riley (1993). This gender and science model provided sources of influence that affect gender differences in science.  This model included the influences that occur before the student arrives in the classroom as well as what occurs in the classroom. Studies by Jarvis & Pell (2002), Joyce & Farenga (1999), and Kahle & Lakes (1983) demonstrated that socio-cultural backgrounds form ideas about gender in science. Views of science being masculine (Barman, 1999b; Kahle & Meece, 1994; and Fung (2002)) are found within the images students bring to the classroom. Thus, the previous experiences of both the teacher and the student are important concepts for the gender and science model. A student’s degree of previous experiences will vary due to sex of the student, family life, community location and local educational system (Kahle & Lakes, 1983). “Rural Girls In Science” is an example of a program where the researchers understood the importance of including the whole school, family, and community in changing the cultural aspect of science attitudes and included that aspect in the design of the program (Ginorio, Huston, Frevert, & Seibel, 2002).

Central to the gender and science model is the teacher and her behavior.

Teacher behavior is not limited to how she directly interacts with girls within the classroom but how the development of activities and the choice of pedagogy utilized will involve girls in the learning process. Based on research that focused on gender-equitable teaching strategies, Kahle, et al. (1993) and Phillips, Barrow and Chandrasekhar (2002) revealed that gender differences in attitudes toward science disappeared when active participation in small learning groups was employed. This illustrated that the student beliefs/attitudes component has a direct relationship to teacher behavior. In addition, when girls are given the opportunity to participate and be heard, as seen in small groups, they carry over these positive behaviors in other classroom activities (Greenfield, 1997; Pell & Jarvis, 2001). This observation reinforces the connection between females’ attitudes and their behavior by being more confident as a participant in the science classroom.

The stereotyping of science, a part of student attitudes, results in students less likely to value science and to identify it with future goals (Debacher & Nelson, 2000; Jarvis & Pell, 2002). In addition, female students reported lower perceived abilities when

there is gender stereotyping. As noted on the model, these behaviors exhibited by females can be used as reinforcement to a teacher’s usage of activities and in shaping the teacher’s attitude. Teacher attitudes and beliefs are an important component to consider when educating teachers to be more gender equitable. Intervention programs that included equity education for teachers as well as information about activity-based lessons proved successful in improving attitudes toward science in females (Echevarria, 2003, Rennie, Parker, & Kahle, 1996).

The gender and science model is not a one-way relationship but involves feedback systems that are circular in nature. Kahle, et al. (1993) believed the content knowledge and skills of the teacher and the personal experiences of the student are instrumental in influencing the teacher’s and student’s beliefs and attitudes respectfully. As the teacher constructs her classroom activities, strategies, and assessments she involves her beliefs/attitudes and her previous experiences (Hammrich, 2000). It was shown that instruction might be influenced not only by her students’ observable outcomes, but also by the students’ behavior toward the classroom activities. Piburn and Baker (1993) and Osborne, Simon, & Collins (2003) determined that attitudes toward science originated from classroom instruction and the relationships among the individuals in the classroom. This perception on the origin of attitude reinforced the idea that teachers’ behavior and their classroom environment have a great influence on attitudes and performance of female students.

The importance of a teacher’s behavior was highlighted in a study that involved women who pursued science as a career. These women remembered their teachers as using activity-based instruction, encouraging their students to express their diverse

opinions, and providing for student collaboration (Taylor & Swelnam, 1999). This study sought a plausible answer to the question, “What pedagogical approaches used in the science classroom are the most conducive for producing positive attitudes toward science in females?” Lynch (2000) suggested equity pedagogy doesn’t mean using a uniform approach. A teacher needs to create conditions in the classroom and through the curriculum that enable students to catch up with those who may have more prior knowledge.

The Sisters in Science program (Hammrich, 1997), a longitudinal study on reform in mathematics and science, demonstrated the effectiveness of providing an environment that included hands-on exploratory activities and cooperative learning that resulted in positive changes in attitudes in girls. Other programs, Tech Trek and Family Tools and Technology also incorporated hands-on strategies along with problem-solving collaborative activities to improve attitudes toward science and reduce gender stereotyping found in the sciences. (NSF, 2003a) All of these approaches, problem-solving, hands-on, inquiry-based, are found within the constructivist learning theory. In constructivist learning, students actively participate in their own thinking through class activities, discussions and past experiences (Driver, 1982). According to Aldridge, Fraser, Taylor, and Chen (2000), scientific uncertainty, student negotiation, shared control, critical voice, and personal relevance are considered important elements of an effective constructivist classroom. These principles of constructivist teaching are also found within the science teaching standards of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) written by the National Research Council (1996). (See Table 1)


Table 1:


Science Teaching Standards, National Science Education Standards (1996)


A:  Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program for their students.

B:  Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning.

C:  Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student


D:  Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with

      the time, space, and resources needed for learning science.

E:  Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual

rigor of scientific rigor inquiry and the attitudes and social values conducive to science learning.     

F:  Teachers of science actively participate in the ongoing planning and development of the school science program.













In particular, Standard A focuses on providing inquiry-based instruction by using hands-on and open-ended activities, Standard B focuses on the teacher providing an environment for learners to engage in the learning process, while Standard E focuses on developing communities of learners while utilizing cooperative learning and class discussions. Equity programs funded by the National Science Foundation (2003a) have recognized the value of the NSES (National Research Council, 1996) and promoted them to facilitate constructivist learning environments.

The purpose of the NSES (National Research Council, 1996) was not limited to providing standards in K-12 science content but also provided standards for the teacher and the science teaching as part of the reform. This emphasis coincides with the gender and science model that illustrated teacher behavior as a central component to influencing not only student beliefs/attitude and behavior but also eventually student observable outcomes, as seen in choice of a career. The science teaching standards emphasized the use of an inquiry-based science program and the development of communities of science learners. Lee and Burkam (1996) found the combination of hands-on science activities and girls working in pairs or small groups to be effective in reducing gender equity in eighth grade science classes. In addition, teachers educated in the Sisters in Science program (Hammrich, Richardson, & Livingston, 2000) indicated that girls blossomed when working on open-ended projects and in small groups. This illustrates support of Standard A, Standard B, and Standard E of the science teaching standards and lends credence to the idea that improving the attitudes of girls in science can be accomplished by incorporating these standards in lesson planning and classroom activities.

Positive attitudes toward science in girls who are taught using the NSES can be demonstrated by their increased interest in class activities and in selecting more science classes. As a former secondary science teacher, it was always interesting why girls shied away from the advanced science courses in my high school. In the advanced biology and genetics classes girls many times outnumbered the boys. But when looking at the gender ratios in upper level chemistry and physics classes, the boys were more frequent. This observation coincides with studies (AAUW, 1998; Joyce & Farengo, 1999; National Science Foundation, 2003; Sadker, 1999) that illustrated that girls tend to only select advanced courses in the biological sciences instead of advanced courses in the physical sciences. Evidence has shown that decisions for selecting these courses reflect back to their middle school level science class and teacher (Hill & Atwater, 1995).

Middle school is a time when students’ identities are being shaped.

Although a variety of school and non-school influences play an important role on students’ perceptions, teachers’ behaviors do make a difference (Osbourne, et. al., 2003). If middle school girls have successful and interesting experiences with science, then these girls may take more science classes in high school and possibly pursue a career in science. Even if these girls do not pursue science, it is likely they will recognize the relevance and importance of science in their everyday lives. Several studies (AAUW, 1992; Catsambis, 1995; Jarvis & Pell, 2002; Pell & Jarvis, 2001; Simpson & Oliver, 1990) have observed that middle school girls have a less positive attitude toward science and participate less in classroom activities. Because students bring their preconceived ideas and backgrounds concerning gender into the classroom we must address these ideas as we plan our curriculum. As indicated in a study by Jones, Howe, and Rua (2000), sixth grade boys and girls perceive science as being masculine with boys and girls having gender distinctive interests in the physical and biological sciences, respectfully.

Because we want schools to be gender neutral in facilitating student choices and learning, schools must provide an environment to change the gendered nature of values regarding, and attitudes about, science. Teachers must provide appropriate opportunities so that boys and girls can equally engage in science activities (Lynch, 2000, Hammrich, et. al., 2000, Rop, 1998). Implementation of the science teaching standards may provide the effective intervention needed to influence middle school science attitudes (Hurd, 2000).

Building upon the gender and science model, I incorporated inquiry and constructivism into a model (Figure 1.2) to establish the connection between the science teaching standards and attitude toward science in girls. In my model teacher behavior that is student-centered now includes classroom experiences that are based in inquiry and constructivism. While teachers actively involve students in the learning process females become more interested in science and view science as a relevant part of their out-of-school experiences. One also observes active participation of females in classroom interactions, whether it is student to student or student to teacher and these females can see science as a viable career choice. Using this framework provided me guidance in understanding the development of attitudes toward science utilizing the NSES and in ascertaining a plausible answer to the question, “What pedagogical approaches used in the science classroom are the most conducive in producing positive attitudes toward science in females?”

My research goal regarding the science teaching standards was to show a relationship between classroom practice that adheres to the NSES and the development of positive attitudes toward science in female middle school students. A teacher who adheres to these standards shall be responsive to individual student’s interests, strengths, experiences and needs and thus, should promote positive student beliefs and attitudes about science. To determine whether this is the case, my research focused on the following questions: 

1. Will the incorporation of the NSES teaching standards provide a classroom environment that is conducive to positive attitudes toward science in girls?

2. Will girls in such environments view science as a subject that is relevant and attainable as a possible career for them?



Using a causal comparative design, I looked at possible cause and effect relationships between the implementation of NSES in a science classroom and attitude toward science of girls in middle school. In order to identify the current state of the middle school classroom, I employed the Reform Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) (Sawada, Piburn and Judson, 2002). The RTOP utilized a checklist to identify if reform pedagogy based on the NSES was being demonstrated. A second instrument, Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) (Taylor, Fraser & Fisher, 1997), was used to determine if the characteristics of a constructivist environment were present in the middle school science classroom. Both instruments are rooted in constructivism and the NSES.

The scales of both the CLES and RTOP are associated with the science teaching standards of the NSES.   The results of these instruments were compared to the results of the Attitude Toward Science survey (Simpson & Oliver, 1985) to explore the relationship between learning environments and attitude toward science, particularly in girls.

The qualitative data included interviews of both students and teachers and classroom observations (Huberman & Miles, 1994). Teachers were asked about their methodology used in the science classroom while students elaborated on their responses to the CLES. Female students completed the Draw-A-Scientist Test (Chambers, 1983). These pictures provided information about their perceptions on science and how science fits into their lives. Data about student to student and student to teacher interactions were obtained from classroom observations. Personal journal entries also helped me record my reflections of the classroom environment.  In addition, information about female attitudes is obtained from student drawings, interviews, surveys, and classroom observations.


Four middle schools (grades 6-8) were selected from schools in central Indiana. One school was an urban school, two were suburban schools and the last school was in a rural setting. Each school was comparable in size, approximately 1000 students. Student participants in the urban school were African-American, while the other three schools’ student participants were Caucasian. Only those students who returned completed student and parent informed consent forms were included in this study.  Part of the data were obtained through a survey administered during regular class time, and follow-up interviews were conducted with randomly selected female students during a homeroom period or before school.

A female seventh grade science teacher from each of the four schools was selected based on her years of teaching experience and exposure to NSES in her college education. Two of the teachers had less than five years of teaching experience and had been educated in their science methods course about utilizing the NSES. The other two teachers had more than twenty years of science teaching experience and had only been exposed to the NSES by means of the state science content standards, not through their college experience. The study took place in the fall semester. All middle school classrooms selected were not provided with any prescribed lessons to teach, to ensure that each classroom environment was representative of its daily practice.

Quantitative Data Collection

The Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) instrument was used to identify the science teaching standards of the NSES in each classroom environment from the perspective of the student. This instrument is divided into five scales: Personal Relevance, Uncertainty, Critical Voice, Shared Control and Student Negotiation. (Taylor, Fraser & Fisher, 1997) The CLES contains 30 items, 6 per scale, and is designed to obtain students’ perceptions about the occurrence of the five key dimensions in a constructivist-learning environment. (Taylor, Fraser, & Fisher, 1997).

To confirm the characteristics and identification of a learning environment that is utilizing the NSES in a constructivist format, the Reform Teaching Observation Protocol was used (Sawada, Piburn & Judson, 2002). Using this instrument enabled me to score the classroom activities in regards to reform pedagogy. This 25-item classroom observation protocol was designed to provide quantitative evidence that the teacher had implemented the NSES in their instructional practice. The mathematics and science national standards, inquiry based teaching, the principles of constructivism and the definition of good science teaching from the National Research Council influenced the construction of this instrument (Sawada, et al, 2002). In particular, the use of Teaching

Standard B of the NSES (NRC, 1996) served as a model for the development of the RTOP’s three scales: Lesson Design and Implementation, Content, and Classroom Culture (Sawada, et al, 2002This instrument, along with the CLES, was compared to the “more emphasis on” statements of the science teaching standards.        Since both the CLES and the RTOP are based on the National Science Education Standards, Table 2, was constructed to illustrate the similarities of the scales used in these two instruments. Comparisons of the data obtained from each instrument were used to determine correlations of the scales to the NSES “more emphasis on” ideals.

Table 2:


Commonalities of CLES and RTOP to NSES “More Emphasis On” Ideals


CLES Scale                 RTOP Scale                 More Emphasis On (NSES)


Personal Relevance       Lesson Design                            Understanding and responding to individual

                          & Implementation           student’s interests, strengths, experiences, and  needs


Uncertainty                    Content                                         Guiding students in active and extended scientific inquiry


Critical Voice               Classroom Culture     Sharing responsibilities for learning with   students 


Shared Control              Classroom Culture                       Sharing responsibility for learning with students


                                                                                                Focusing on student understanding and use of scientific knowledge, ideas, and inquiry processes


Student Negotiation       Classroom Culture                    Providing opportunities for scientific discussion and debate among students


Supporting a classroom community with cooperation, shared responsibility, and respect




The Attitude Toward Science survey (Simpson & Oliver, 1985), administered to all students, was used to determine the impact of implementing the science teaching standards on girls’ attitude toward science. Various studies (Buck & Ehlers, 2002; Cavallo & Laubach, 2001; and Chandrasekhar & Geib, 2003) have demonstrated that various pedagogy characteristics of the NSES have influenced female attitudes toward science. This instrument is composed of seven items written for students in grades six through ten. The items not only focused on how students feel about science but if students were interested in pursuing science as a career and the value of learning science.

Each Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST) illustration was rated using the Draw A Scientist Test - checklist (DAST-C) (Finson, Beaver, & Cramond, 1995). The DAST-C is designed to rate the images of scientists drawn by students. It uses the seven elements found in a “standard image” reported by Chambers (1983). Examples of these elements include: lab coat, eyeglasses, and symbols of knowledge. Also included in the DAST-C are provisions to score alternative images, making an eighth major element with its own eight subcategories of alternative images, such as: gender and indications of secrecy.  In this study, the DAST-C was also used for the Draw Yourself as a Scientist Test (DYAST) to determine how females view themselves in science.

My approach to understanding girls’ attitude toward science was through a phenomenological study and, therefore, described the meaning that girls experience in a middle school science classroom (Creswell, 1998; Rossman & Rallis, 2003). In this situation, the meaning that females make of their science classroom experiences was determined using a comparative case study of the four schools which provided information about the differences females possess in their construction of attitude toward science (Creswell, 1998; Rossman & Rallis, 2003). By comparing and contrasting the results of this case study, I was able to forecast implementation of a particular pedagogy (Rossman & Rallis, 2003).

Three strategies were used to ensure credibility:

1. Triangulation – This study used interviews of teachers and students, classroom observations of teacher pedagogy and student participation, and student documents in the form of DAST to comprise the triangulation.

2. Prolonged Engagement – The observation period for this study was conducted during an eleven week period where numerous visits were made to each school and classroom observations covered at least two to three class periods at a time.

3. Peer review and debriefing – Sessions with university faculty were conducted in which themes, observations, and interpretations were discussed.


At the end of the first nine-week grading period interviews with randomly selected female students from each school were completed. Interviews were semi-structured in nature with open-ended questions. The questions were structured to supplement the CLES instrument.  Teacher interviews were conducted during a teacher resource period after an initial classroom observation had occurred. The questions were based on the “less emphasis on” and “more emphasis on” statements in science teaching standards.

Data were collected from videotapes of the science lesson and from direct observations within the classroom. From these observations I recorded the frequency of interactions students had with other students, with the teacher and with the lesson pedagogy.

Selected female students were asked to complete the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST)(Chambers, 1983). This picture provided more insight into how females view science and their role within science. Upon completion of the drawing the students were interviewed (Kvale, 1996) to obtain clarification about their drawing. The DAST protocol was modified by Barman (1999a) to have students not only draw a picture of a scientist doing science but also draw a picture of themselves doing science. At the completion of the picture, students were asked to explain the picture and to think of ways they use what they learned in class outside of school. The analysis of these pictures resulted in grouping the students as either passive or active learners. Passive students were defined as those sitting at a desk and listening to a teacher, while active students were defined as performing an experiment or interacting with other students.  Students’ perceptions of using science were placed into categories ranging from those who think they can use science outside of the classroom and those who do not see science used outside of class. In addition, information obtained from the DAST interviews was used to interpret the type of learner and the needs of the student.

Data Analysis

Teacher Behavior

The identification of the classroom type of the four teachers was accomplished using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) and personal interviews. Initial data from teacher interviews revealed a difference between the teachers. Two teachers with less than five years of teaching experience were exposed to the National Science Education Standards (NSES) while in their science methods classes, while the other two teachers with more than twenty years of teaching experience were not exposed to the NSES in their science methods classes and their personal experiences with the NSES were in association with writing state science content standards. For purposes of identification, the two teachers with NSES exposure in methods are referred to as “NSES methods” teachers and the other two teachers will be “no NSES methods” teachers. Each teacher within the group will be called either A or B.

Using the three classroom observations for each teacher, a mean RTOP score was calculated for each subscale and the total score. If a teacher was educated in the NSES then the RTOP scores should be higher than for teachers who were not educated. Both the NSES Methods teachers demonstrated higher scores in the Communicative Interactions and Student/Teacher Relationship subscales. But in the Lesson Design and Implementation, Content Propositional Knowledge, and Content Procedural Knowledge subscales, the NSES methods – B teacher’s score was lower than both of the no NSES methods teachers. This inconsistency was also seen in the overall RTOP score with a no NSES methods teacher having a slightly higher mean than a NSES methods teacher. (See Figure 2)


            In addition to the RTOP, information about teacher behavior and the classroom environment was obtained from the seventh grade students in each school who completed the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) to determine the level of constructivism occurring in the science classroom.  A total of 93 students completed the survey (female = 61, male = 32). A maximum score of 30 points could be obtained for each subscale.  Scores closer to 30 were perceived to be constructivist while those scores closer to 6 were considered more traditional.  The data found in Figure 3 revealed mixed perceptions in regard to the CLES subscales.  The Shared Control was interpreted as more traditional for both groups of teachers.  Student responses from the CLES indicated an environment that is more teacher-centered than student-centered and that students lacked a voice in determining the activities and assessment used in their science classrooms.

Students ranked the Critical Voice and Student Negotiation category as “sometimes occurring” toward constructivism.  Students viewed their classrooms as having minimal opportunities to exchange and discuss differing views originating from either students or the teacher.  Personal Relevance ranked the closest to constructivism for all classes with a mean of 22. This higher ranking revealed that teachers are demonstrating to students the relevance of science in their lives.  In addition, students scored the Uncertainty section high.  This would reveal that students learn that science does change due to improvements in technology, new discoveries, and by the people involved in science.  The lowest perceived category for all schools was Shared Control.  Student responses indicated that the classroom is more teacher-centered than student-centered and that they lacked a voice in determining the activities and assessment used in their science. 

            Data in Figure 3 are supported by the interviews of the twenty female students selected from the four schools.  Supporting the strong perception of Personal Relevance, the majority of students interviewed provided examples of how science was used outside of the classroom.  These included:  cooking, preparing for storms, knowledge of diseases caused by viruses and bacteria, staying healthy and DNA.  Only one student replied that science was not relevant in her life.  She felt that outside of school was suppose to be fun and she didn’t use science every day.  In addition, several females responded that science was relevant to them because of future science careers.

The relationship between the five subscales of RTOP and the five subscales of CLES was investigated using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (Table 3).  There was a strong, positive correlation between the two variables Uncertainty and Communicative Interactions [r = .976, n = 4, p = 0.05].  Other positive correlations were found, but with no significance.  These included:  Personal Relevance correlated with Student/Teacher Relationships, Uncertainty correlated with Propositional and Procedural Knowledge, as well as Lesson Design and Implementation, and Critical Voice and Student Negotiation both correlated with Communicative Interactions.






Table 3:

Pearson Product Correlation for Association Between RTOP Scales and CLES Scales


Lesson Design and Impplementation

Content Propositional Knowledge

Content Procedural Knowledge

Communicative Interactions

Student/ Teacher Relationship

Personal Relevance












Critical Voice






Shared Control






Student Negotiation







            When comparing these correlations to Table 2, the correlations do not match the “More Emphasis On” ideals.  For example, Personal Relevance and Lesson Design and Implementation are associated with “Understanding and responding to individual student’s interests, strengths, experiences and needs.”  But looking at Table 3, there is a strong negative correlation between the two.  This may be explained by having only four teachers to calculate the Lesson Design and Implementation value while having over 90 students to calculate the Personal Relevance value.  More data needs to be collected in classrooms in order to determine the value of the information in Table 3.

Attitude Toward Science

            Students  (males and females) completed the Attitude Toward Science survey in each of their respective classes at the end of the first grading period (Table 4).  In all classes except for the No NSES Methods B class, the female attitudes toward science mean was higher than the male attitudes toward science mean.






Table 4:

 Descriptive Statistics of Attitude Toward Science in Females and Males


Teacher Type




Std. Deviation

NSES Methods – A










NSES Methods – B










No NSES Methods – A










No NSES Methods – B






















          A one-way between groups analysis of variance was conducted to explore the impact of the middle school on attitude toward science in females.  Subjects were divided into four groups according to their school (i.e. NSES Methods – A, NSES Methods – B, No NSES Methods - A, and No NSES Methods - B).  There was no significant difference between the groups (p = .167).  An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare the attitude scores for females with teachers who had NSES methods exposure and with teachers who had no NSES methods exposure.  There was no significant difference in scores for females in NSES methods classrooms (M = 26.58, SD = 6.03) and females in the No NSES methods classrooms [M = 25.80, SD = 6.07; t(61) = .503, p = .616]. 

The relationship between the five subscales of CLES and female attitudes toward science was investigated using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient.  There was a strong, positive correlation between all five subscales of CLES and female attitudes toward science (see Table 5).  The strongest correlation was Uncertainty (r = .946) followed by Student Negotiation (r = .936) and Critical Voice (r= .930).

Table 5: 

Pearson Product Correlation for Association Between CLES Scales and Female Attitude Toward Science*



Personal Relevance




Critical Voice


Shared Control


Student Negiotiation


                        * n = 61

                        ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level


Draw A Scientist

            Twenty females were randomly selected from the four schools to complete the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST).  Each drawing was analyzed using the Draw-A-Scientist Checklist (DAST-C) (Finson, et al. 1995).  The higher the score on the DAST-C the more stereotypes are included in the student drawing, indicating a stereotypic view of scientists.  Table 6 represented the mean of the DAST-C results from these females.  Scores tended to be higher for those students whose teachers stressed safety and order in their classrooms.  Illustrations included lab coats, goggles, and gloves.  An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare the DAST scores for females in the classroom of a NSES methods teacher and females in the classroom of a no NSES methods teacher.  There was no significant difference in scores for the females in a classroom of a NSES methods teacher (M = 4.2, SD = 1.23), and females in a classroom of a No NSES methods teacher [M = 5.3, SD = 1.57; t (18) = .818, p = .424].







     Table 6:


            Descriptive Statistics of Female DAST



Teacher Type



Std.     Deviation

Std. Error   Mean

NSES Methods





No NSES Methods







The total population of females surveyed revealed less stereotypic images than a nationwide study that included 6th to 8th graders conducted by Barman (1999).  The females’ drawings demonstrated less stereotyping in the areas of presence of danger, symbols of research and knowledge, and the presence of a labcoat or eyeglasses.  These females showed less stereotypic characteristics than female students from China who drew scientists with more lab coats and eyeglasses, but were the same in the areas of symbols of research and knowledge and signs of technology (Fung, 2002). There was a large difference relating to the gender of the scientist. In the nationwide survey 75% of the scientists drawings were male while only 20% of the scientists drawings were male in this study.  Another striking difference was in the ethnic category.  The females all drew Caucasian scientists while the 74% of the nationwide participants drew Caucasian scientists.  None of the African-American females drew an African-American scientist, even when provided with a set of colored pencils. This coincided with results from other research that noted that most minority students draw images of Caucasian scientists (Finson, 2002).  Eighty-five percent of the females’ drawings portrayed scientists working in a lab compared to 71% from the nationwide survey.  The females defined sixty-five percent of those drawn in a lab setting as being chemists.  These statistics would indicate that the middle school teachers in this study are providing an environment that encourages females to participate in science.  The absence of scientists of different ethnic groups would indicate that diversity in science is not being represented within the curriculum.

            These same females also completed the Draw Yourself As A Scientist (DYAST) and each drawing was analyzed using the DAST-C.  Total DYAST scores were lower than the DAST because the instructions asked the females to draw themselves, which eliminated gender and ethnic group from the checklist.  Comparisons of the DAST-C items between the DAST and DYAST are found in Table 7.  The majority of the females still perceived themselves doing science indoors and using symbols of research.  None of the females drew themselves in labcoats or wearing eyeglasses. Finson (2002) noted that students who perceive themselves more positive toward science tend to draw fewer stereotypic characteristics.  As seen in Table 7, these females did not draw themselves with as many stereotypic characteristics as they did with drawing a scientist doing science.  This would indicate a more positive perception of themselves and science.




            Table 7:

            Female Responses to Checklist Items (n = 20)

Common Stereotype


















Mythic Stereotypes



Signs of Danger



Signs of Technology



Use of Animals



Symbols of Research



Symbols of Knowledge












            As seen in Table 8, seventy-five percent of the females drew themselves doing science as an activity, while the nationwide study participants was 88%. Of the 25% who included a book in their drawing, half were using a book to classify a plant, animal or rock while the other half were using books to get ideas and resources for a science project.  While 7% of the nationwide students viewed themselves doing science by sitting at a desk and taking notes none of the females in this study drew this scenario.  Adding the responses from the student interviews, 90% of the females viewed science as being a part of their out-of-school world.  Fifty percent believed that science learned in class was needed to provide for a healthy and meaningful life, while 20% viewed science as needed for a job or career.  Of those surveyed from all four schools, 13% “strongly agreed” with the statement, “I would enjoy being a scientist,” while an additional 20%, “agreed” with the same statement.

                        Table 8:

                        Females’ Perceptions of Doing Science (n=20)


Activity Represented




Doing Science in a School Setting


Participating in an Activity


Seated at a Desk Reading


Working with Chemistry


Working with Life Science


Working with Earth Science


Doing Library Research


Collecting Data










            While this study did not find a relationship between NSES implementation and female attitude toward science, other conclusions with regards to the gender and science model were uncovered that can be useful to a science teacher and to educators of teachers of science.  The development of female attitudes toward science is related to not only female involvement in the classroom but also teacher attitudes and beliefs and her implementation of inquiry-based instruction.  When teachers allow females to try different methodologies in learning science, to exchange and test their ideas, and to voice their opinions about their learning, then females will have favorable attitudes toward science.  The utilization of the science teaching standards A, B and E would provide the opportunities for inquiry, involvement in the science learning process, and learning communities.

            The lack of understanding and use of current reform practices as revealed in this study points to the importance of informing teachers on how current reform practices should be incorporated into instructional planning and implementation.  The use of statewide initiatives to study national reform efforts is one tool in which to inform teachers about reform practices.  Presenting evidence that supports the use of reform practices to teachers will give them the foundation to build these practices into their curricula.  Attention to the development of strategies in the preparation of pre-service teachers and in the professional development for in-service teachers is needed if we are to impact our classrooms using the NSES.

            Finally, if we are to continue to encourage females to think positively about science and to pursue science we must realize that many factors are involved in this process. We must utilize the pedagogy that promotes their understanding, involves females in the learning process by listening to them, and provides an environment of respect and equal participation.


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