Impact of Gender, Ethnicity, and Attitude on High School Students' Comprehension of Science.
Mentor:Chris Craney, Director of Undergraduate and Sponsored Research, Chair of the Biochemistry Department, and Professor of Chemistry, Occidental College
Over the past decade, the Teachers + Occidental = Partnership in Science (TOPS) program has tried to examine how students respond to various labs, and whether these labs help increase student understanding of scientific concepts. The TOPS program delivers technology based laboratory kits along with pre- and post- surveys to high schools in the Los Angeles area. The pre- and post- lab surveys consist of demographic identifiers and four objective multiple-choice questions that are aligned with the California State Science Standard. Scores obtained from the questions are used to measure students’ conceptual comprehension. The data is then analyzed using SPSS. Using the pre- and post-surveys completed from seven labs from 2008-2012 for Physics, seven labs from 2009-2012 for Biology, and six labs from 2008-2012 for Chemistry, the research assessed whether participating in the TOPS program results in an increase in student comprehension in all three sciences, and whether gender, ethnicity, and attitude toward science affect the increase in the comprehension of science. Repeated Measures ANOVA analysis revealed that there was no significant difference in the change in attitude between the different genders and ethnicities, thus attitude was considered a fixed trait. Although attitude appears fixed, it was found that males have a more favorable attitude toward science than females. These results were consistent in all three sciences. Along with these findings, it was found that overall the TOPS program increased student understanding of scientific concepts, and that for the most part gender and ethnic identity do not affect students’ gain of understanding for scientific concepts.