Full-option science system: Effects on science attitudes and achievement of female fifth-grade students



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Texas Tech University


The predicted shortfall of scientists and engineers can be alleviated if larger numbers of female students are drawn toward these fields. A number of factors have been identified that contribute to the low participation of females in science, many of which can be addressed by restructuring the way science is taught. Among the recommended pedagogical and curriculum changes involved in this type of restructuring are cooperative learning, hands-on experiences, the learning cycle, a strong conceptual emphasis, and opportunities for students to construct their own meaning from the learning material.

This study investigated the effects of the Full- Option Science System (FOSS) curriculum on the science attitude and achievement of fifth-grade students. This curriculum, recently developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at U.C. Berkeley with NSF funding, incorporated each of the components mentioned above. For this study, 136 fifth-grade students (63 males and 73 females) were randomly assigned to five classes. Two classes used the FOSS curriculum, and three used the traditional textbook-based curriculum. Independent variables were treatment group and gender. Dependent variables were general and specific science achievement, science process skills, and attitudes toward science. The California Test of Basic Skills Science was used to assess general science achievement and science process skills. Specific content science achievement (Electricity and Magnetism) was measured with an instrument developed by the investigator. Science process skills were also measured in an activity in which students were given a problem and told to design an experiment that might solve it. Attitudes toward science were measured by the Science Attitude Survey and the Science and Gender Attitude Survey; these also contained three attitude subscales: liking science, self-confidence in science, and attitudes toward the ability of females to succeed in science.

The study was conducted for 14 weeks, using a posttest-only design with students randomly assigned to groups. Results of the achievement and attitude assessments were analyzed by the use of two-way analyses of variance. T-tests for independent groups were then used to analyze differences in the scores of female students and male students across the two treatment groups. The experiment that students were asked to design was scored holistically and analyzed using chi-square procedures. Additionally, the investigator observed student-student and student-teacher interactions within the five classes on a regular basis and conducted informant interviews with randomly selected female students at the end of the study.

Results indicated that students in the FOSS treatment group, compared with the textbook-based control group, scored significantly higher in specific content science achievement and in science process skills, demonstrated more positive attitudes toward science and greater self-confidence in science, liked science more, and held more positive attitudes toward the ability of females to succeed in science. Analysis by gender indicated that female students in the FOSS group scored significantly higher in specific content science achievement and science process skills compared to females in the control group. Male students in the FOSS group scored higher in process skills, and demonstrated more positive attitudes toward science, self-confidence in science, and the ability of females to succeed in science compared to male students in the control group. This study supported the use of FOSS to improve student performance in science for both genders.



Science -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- United States, Academic achievement -- United States, Women -- Education -- United States, Curriculum planning -- Education (Elementary) -- United States