Title

College student perceptions of science teachers and the effect on science teaching as a career path

Date of Award

5-2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Science Teaching

Advisor(s)

Marvin Druger

Keywords

College student, Science, Teaching, Career path

Subject Categories

Science and Mathematics Education | Student Counseling and Personnel Services

Abstract

Past research documented that student perceptions of scientists constituted a stereotypical image that had a negative effect on the students' attitudes towards science and resulted in low numbers of students studying to become scientists and engineers in college. The present study paralleled the research on student perceptions of scientists to investigate to what extent student perceptions of science teachers affect their willingness to consider science teaching as a career. This was accomplished by surveying 91 college students and 25 science teachers at the beginning, middle, and end of the collegiate career path of becoming a science teacher. Each survey contained quantitative data utilizing seven-point semantic differential scales and written open response questions. In-depth interviews with two members of each level were conducted to supplement the survey data. The study found that college students begin college with a positive perception of teaching as a career and highly rank teachers, especially science teachers, as having a positive influence on their career path. The qualities of job enjoyment, job stability, and helping others that are characteristic of teaching were also found to be of high importance. Perceptions of the personal, social, professional, and career qualities of a science teacher were found to differ from a scientist. While both science teachers and scientists were found to be responsible, persistent, and productive, science teachers were perceived as being a distinct career possessing qualities that make them more personable, sociable, and wise than scientists. Some gender differences were detected but there was no evidence of gender bias affecting students choosing a career path to science teaching. Science teachers were perceived to be very supportive of females pursuing scientific career paths. The study also found evidence that some introductory level college students steer away from science teaching because of low salary, the lack of promotion, and the efforts of influential people including science teachers. The study calls for departments of science education to take a more active role in the recruitment of new science teachers and the improvement of undergraduate science education.

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