This thesis explores the change over time of high-and low-performing girls' and boys' attitudes towards biology, physics and chemistry. Data from the TIMSS studies for grade 8 in Sweden is used to investigate how the attitudes have changed between 1995 and 2007. In order to define high- and low performing pupils the results from the mathematic test in the TIMSS studies are used. The attitude is measured by four questions from the student questionnaire in the TIMSS studies. The results are discussed from various perspectives that can contribute to the understanding of the complex picture of the importance of different factors on students' attitudes towards science.
The first result, boys are more positive to physics and chemistry and girls to biology, is discussed from the subjects association with gender. On a symbolic level physics and chemistry are more associated with masculinity than biology.
The second result, high-performing students especially the boys have a less positive attitude toward the three subjects in 2007 than in 1995. That result is discussed from youth identity and identity construction. It seems that young people today do not think that education and work within the field of science and technology will give them opportunities to use their talents, creativity and self-fulfillment. These results are also discussed based on changes in teaching methods that have taken place in the Swedish school where the individual work has increased and teacher-controlled tuition has been reduced. Is it possible that these changes have affected the high-performing students so they have become less stimulated and have met fewer challenges and therefore have become less positive towards science in school?
The third result, both high- and low-performing boys think that the three science subjects are more boring 2007 compared to 1995, is discussed from the discourses of "effortless achievment” and "uncool to work". Is it possible that this result indicates that it is more important for boys in 2007 to have an “uncool to work”-attitude and that this attitude also affects the attitudes towards science in school in a negative direction?
Finally, the result showing that the low-achieving students think that they are performing better in all three subjects 2007 compared to 1995, are discussed in the light of changes in the Swedish school. During this period the teaching methods have changed. More time is spent on individual work perhaps implying that the low-performing pupils choose not to work with more difficult tasks and therefore feel that they are performing better.
The thesis is concluded with my own reflections on the teaching of science subjects in primary education, on the changes of girls' and boys' attitudes towards science based on the results of this study and on my experience as a teacher in these subjects.