Date of Award

5-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Teacher Education

Major Professor

Jo Ann Cady

Committee Members

Kristin Rearden, Blanche O'Bannon, Gary Skolits

Abstract

Science education reform efforts emphasize teaching science for all Americans, and identify scientific literacy as the principle goal of science education (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993; National Research Council [NRC], 1996). Despite the goal of scientific literacy, some students, especially females and minorities, consider science irrelevant to their personal interests or career goals. Additionally, research pinpoints middle school as a period when female students begin to lose interest in science (Farenga, 1999; Hill et al., 2010).

Decades of research have documented the gender achievement gap, yet little research has been focused on the science identity gap (Archer et al., 2013). We do know girls often do not identify with science regardless of test scores (Archer et al., 2013; Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2009). This lack of research makes a strong argument that the science identity gap limits girls’ participation in science beyond secondary schooling.

One solution to increasing students’ science involvement and development of science identities is through the implementation of out-of-school time (OST) science programs. However, there is limited research on how these programs change female participants’ perceptions of their science abilities. This study examines the impacts of a science OST program in an East Tennessee middle school on the identify construction of its females participants.

An exploratory sequential mixed methods research designed was used to answer three research questions. First, the “Science and Me” survey (SMS) instrument was designed and administered to both boys and girls. Survey results guided the development of a focus group discussion guide for Phase 2. Next, data from four female only focus groups provided insight into the development of middle school females’ science identities by distinguishing parental or home assistance, teachers’ instructional approaches, media outlets, and peer relationships as major influences on females’ science identities. It was concluded that when girls view these influences as positively supporting their science abilities, they feel confident and interested in pursuing informal science programs. Further, the OST program was shown to positively impact the continued construction of their science identities.

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