The Influence Of Science Role Models On The Attitudes Of Middle School Students Toward Women In Science

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Doctor of Education (Educat.D.)




Purpose. A comparison was made between attitudes fostered by exposure to male science role models and those fostered by female science role models.Procedure. A sample of 154, 75 boys and 79 girls, students in six sixth grade classes from three urban middle schools in a large school district participated.Each career unit consisted of ten one hour science presentations by either male scientists for the control group or female scientists for the experimental group. Each scientist presented a science concept, related it to his/her job, discussed science career preparation and his/her work, and answered student questions. The third group of students received no treatment but supplied baseline data.All students were pretested and posttested using two attitudinal instruments, the Women in Science Scale and the Image of Scientists Scale. The control and experimental groups were retested five weeks after treatment had terminated.Findings. (1) Exposure to female science role models did not result in more positive attitudes toward women in science. (2) Exposure to all male science role models did not decrease boys' or girls' attitude toward women in science. (3) Exposure to either treatment resulted in females more positive attitudes toward scientists in general. (4) Attitudes of males and females toward women in science remain stable after discontinuation of treatment. (5) Attitudes of males and females toward scientists in general continue to show gains even after treatment termination. (6) Main effect of group was not significant. Main effect for sex was highly significant. Interaction group by sex was not significant.Conclusion. (1) Science career education units utilizing scientists as role models are an effective means for altering student attitudes. (2) Presentations by role models of either sex results in improved attitude toward scientists. (3) Females exhibit less sex stereotypical attitudes toward women in science than males prior to and after treatment. (4) Treatment is more effective for girls than for boys in that girls evidence greater gains and thus evidence less sex stereotypy. (5) Changes in attitude as a result of treatment are maintained when treatment is discontinued. (6) There is a carry over effect of treatment as evidenced by significant increases in retest scores on the Image of Scientists Scale. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)


Education, Curriculum and Instruction

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