Year of Publication

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Xin Ma

Abstract

Science achievement of U.S. students has lagged significantly behind other nations; educational reformers have suggested science engagement may enhance this critical measure. The 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was science-focused and measured science achievement along with nine aspects of science engagement: science self-efficacy, science self-concept, enjoyment of science, general interest in learning science, instrumental motivation for science, future-oriented science motivation, general value of science, personal value of science, and science-related activities.

I used multilevel modeling techniques to address both aspects of science engagement and science achievement as outcome variables in the context of student background and school characteristics. Treating aspects of science engagement as outcome variables provided tests for approaches for their enhancement; meanwhile, treating science achievement as the outcome variable provided tests for the influence of the aspects of science engagement on science achievement under appropriate controls.

When aspects of science engagement were treated as outcome variables, gender and father’s SES had frequent (significant) influences, as did science teaching strategies which focused on applications or models and hands-on activities over-and-above influences of student background and other school characteristics. When science achievement was treated as the outcome variable, each aspect of science engagement was significant, and eight had medium or large effect sizes (future-oriented science motivation was the exception). The science teaching strategy which involved hands-on activities frequently enhanced science achievement over-and-above influences of student background and other school characteristics. Policy recommendations for U.S. science educators included enhancing eight aspects of science engagement and implementing two specific science teaching strategies (focus on applications or models and hands-on activities). Focused implementation of these research findings could enhance both science engagement and science achievement of U.S. students. I identified five key limitations of my research project: the age of the dataset, the lack of racial/ethnic identifiers, the low proportion of student-level variance accounted for by multilevel models with aspects of science engagement as outcome variables, the lack of class-level measures, and the lack of inclusion of students’ epistemological and fixed/flexible beliefs. These limitations provide opportunities for further investigations into these critical issues in science education.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

http://dx.doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2016.275

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