The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of students' background and perceptions on science attitude and achievement. The data analysed came from Booklet 4 given to 17‐year‐olds during the 1976–1977 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) survey. Causal modeling procedures were used to analyze the data. In particular, the LISREL method which underlies the LISREL IV computer program, (Jöreskog and Sörbom, 1978) was employed. The influence of five background variables (sex, race, home environment, amount of homework, and parents' education) on three dependent variables (student perception of science instruction, student attitudes, and student achievement) was examined. Sex, race, and the home environment were shown to have substantial influence on student achievement in science. Further, two different models were tested: a model in which attitudes influence achievement and its converse (achievement influences attitudes). The data supported the first model, that is, attitudes influence achievement.
This study reports on the attitudes towards biotechnology of 905, 1,5 -16 year-old students from 11 Western Australian schools. Students were asked to read 15 statements about biotechnology processes and to draw a line to separate what they considered 'acceptable' statements from those they considered 'unacceptable'. Overall, the students hold a wide range of beliefs about what is an acceptable use of biotechnology. Their attitudes range from those of the 55 (6.0%) students who do not agree with the use of any living organisms in biotechnology to the 125 (14%) students who approve of all the stated uses of biotechnology, with a wide spread in between. Acceptance of the use of organisms in biotechnology decreases as we move from microorganisms (>90%approval) to plants (71 -82%) to humans (42 -45%) and animals (34 -40%). The attitudes of 99 students who recently studied biotechnology and have a good understanding of the processes and issues were similar in percentage and spread to those who were less informed.
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Are science educators providing secondary school students with the background to understand the science behind recent controversies such as the recently introduced compulsory labelling of genetically modified foods? Research from the UK suggests that many secondary school students do not understand the processes or implications of modern biotechnology. The situation in Australia is unclear. In this study, 1116 15-year-old students from eleven Western Australian schools were surveyed to determine their understanding of, and attitude towards, recent advances in modern biotechnology. The results indicate that approximately one third of students have little or no understanding of biotechnology. Many students over-estimate the use of biotechnology in our society by confusing current uses with possible future applications. The results provide a rationale for the inclusion of biotechnology, a cutting edge science, in the school science curriculum.
Public policy assumptions, which view "the public" as passive consumers, are deeply flawed. "The public" are, in fact, active citizens, who constitute the innovation end of the seamless web of relationships, running from research and development laboratory to shop, hospital or farm, or local neighborhood. "The public" do not receive the impact of technology; they are the impact, in that they determine with gene technology (GT) developers and sellers what happens to the technology in our society. In doing so, they, or more rightly we, exercise particular, contextual knowledges and actions. We suggest that it is the ignorance of this aspect of innovation in policy processes that produces the distrust and resentment that we found in our interviews with "publics" interested in gene technology. This is consistent with Beck's description of the deep structural states of risk and fear in modern advanced societies with respect to new technologies, such as gene technology. Only policy processes that recognize the particular, local and contextual knowledges of "the public", which co-construct innovation, can achieve deep, social structural consideration of gene technology. And only such a deep consideration can avoid the polarized attitudes and deep suspicions that we have seen arise in places such as Britain. Such consideration needs the type of processes that involve active consultation and inclusion of "the public" in government and commercial innovation, the so-called deliberative and inclusionary processes (DIPs), such as consensus conferences and citizen juries. We suggest some measures that could be tried in Australia, which would take us further down the path of participation toward technological citizenship.
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