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Motivating students with authentic science experiences: Changes in motivation for school science
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. (UmSER)
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Chemistry. (LCBU)
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Students’ motivation for science declines over the early teenage years, and students often find school science difficult and irrelevant to their everyday lives. This paper asks whether creating opportunities to connect school science to authentic science can have positive effects on student motivation.

Purpose: To understand how authentic science experiences can affect students’ motivation for science and students’ goals, values, beliefs and attitudes towards science.

Programme description: The Medicine Hunt brought scientists and students together to find bacteria that produce secondary metabolites with antibiotic effects. Scientists received help with collecting soil samples and teachers and students took an active role in research and worked with solving an authentic problem as a part of their ordinary school science over a course of six months.

Sample: 388 students from 18 lower-secondary school classes participating in the Medicine Hunt. Students were enrolled in grade seven to nine (13-15 years old). At this stage, science is compulsory, and all students take the same science course. The classes represented different geographical regions of Sweden.

Design and methods: Students’ filled in motivation questionnaires before and after the Medicine Hunt. Paired t-tests were used to evaluate how students’ intrinsic motivation, goals, values, beliefs and attitudes towards science changed over the project period.

Results: Students’ intrinsic motivation for school science and plans for future participation in science remained unchanged during the period they participated in the Medicine Hunt, at the same time students’ goals, values and attitudes follow the well-documented pattern of decline. Thus, the authentic experience can arrest the well-described decline in some, but not all of the motivation-related factors.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that the authentic experience can arrest some aspects in the decline in motivation towards science in the teenage years. The paper discusses the processes around students’ motivation in relation to authentic experiences. 

Keyword [en]
motivation, authentic science, student-teacher-scientist partnership, secondary school
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-120039OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-120039DiVA: diva2:926624
Projects
Lärandesituationens påverkan på elevers affektiva upplevelser och lärande
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2007-3216
Available from: 2016-05-09 Created: 2016-05-05 Last updated: 2016-05-11
In thesis
1. Students as scientists: a study of motivation in the science classroom
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students as scientists: a study of motivation in the science classroom
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Forskning på schemat : högstadieelevers motivation för naturvetenskap
Abstract [en]

School science and mathematics have been criticized for being difficult, de-contextualised and teacher-centred. This thesis concerns student motivation in science and mathematics in secondary school, and in particular student motivation in relation to student-teacher-scientist partnerships (STSPs) and an authentic science task called the Medicine Hunt where students help scientists to find new antibiotics. The purpose of this dissertation is to interrogate the importance of authentic tasks for motivation in the science classroom. The thesis takes a starting point in motivation theories, with self-determination theory (SDT) in focus, and also builds on the hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (HMIEM). A mixed-methods approach is used first, to find out what factors are important for students’ positive emotions and experiences in the classroom, and second, to learn more about the importance of authentic tasks using student interviews and observations in combination with questionnaires that evaluate students’ motivation. The studies reveal that the notion of having learnt something and intrinsic motivation are central for students’ positive emotions. Further, many situational factors, such as teacher support, autonomy, clear goals, and novelty of the task are central for both positive emotions and experiences in science and mathematics. Regarding the Medicine Hunt, students were positive and referred most of their positive experiences to science-related aspects, and the novelty of authentic science. Teachers gave different opportunities for competence, autonomy or relatedness when implementing the project in their classrooms, and these differences were more important for students’ initiatives and outcomes than students’ initial contextual motivation for school science. Students’ contextual motivation for science can change and the Medicine Hunt arrested the well-documented decline in students’ intrinsic motivation for science during the secondary school years. This thesis argues that authentic tasks implemented as STSPs such as the Medicine Hunt can contribute considerably to school science by providing motivating situations that channel students’ positive emotions and positive experiences, and that is possible to create authentic science learning situations in which both more and less motivated students can flourish. The findings highlight the teachers’ role in supporting the students’ process of extending their understanding of what science can include and in supporting students’ confidence as they adopt a broader and more authentic view of science when learning as part of a successful authentic STSP science project. The findings also suggest that more research focussing on motivation in different authentic situations, and how students’ experiences of authentic science can affect motivation in the longer term, is needed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 2016. 58 p.
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar i pedagogiskt arbete, ISSN 1650-8858 ; 65
Keyword
motivation, emotions, experiences, authentic science, student-teacher-scientist partnership, secondary school, implementation, classroom, mathematics, self-determination theory
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-120123 (URN)978-91-7601-477-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-06-02, KB3A9, KBC-huset, Linnaeus väg 6, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Lärandesituationens påverkan på elevers affektiva upplevelser och lärande
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2007-3216
Available from: 2016-05-12 Created: 2016-05-09 Last updated: 2016-05-26Bibliographically approved

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