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Stereotypes of Science and the Scientist as Limitations to Career Aspirations and Scientific Literacy
November 29, 2017 / EssayNews
1. 1. Rationale for Study
If scientific literacy is precluded by stakeholder perceptions, with the most significant and effectual groups being students, parents, and teachers, then research regarding the roots and manifestations of these perceptions is one of the most worthy scientific inquiries. The enigmatic and broad nature of science may serve to channel inaccurate perceptions regarding the field's role in contemporary society, with stakeholder views of science essential to maintaining the integrity of the field. Consequently, research studies examining stakeholder perceptions represent a key component of the twenty-first century, scientific field.
1. 2. Research Questions and Method of Inquiry
The process of scientific research is not restricted to the collection and documentation of pure and straight-forward evidence; it is the multidimensional and often daunting task of data collection, evaluation, and interpretation. The ultimate and ideal outcome of this process is to garner a more meaningful understanding of a phenomenon relevant to global society. For the purposes of this study, the phenomenon in question is the perceptions of science, scientific curricula, and the scientific profession by various stakeholder groups. According to Williams, research articles represent overviews of scientific studies which reflect the research process both objectively and critically. Criticism of these articles consequently and necessarily emerges from the evaluation of how accurately these objectives have been reached. The method of inquiry utilised in this study is the critical comparison of two research studies conducted by Newton and Newton and DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses in both studies, identify issues with and compare methodologies, and address the implications of the authors' conclusions for the field of scientific education, relevant stakeholder groups, and, more broadly, the global community at large. Additionally, the twenty-year time span separating the articles will serve to reflect how perceptions have shifted over time along with changes in the social, political, and economic spheres.
The research questions proposed to guide this inquiry are four-fold:
1. How do the two articles compare with one another in terms of systematic articulation of objectives, alignment of methodologies with these objectives, data collection and management, and communication of findings within the scope of the article?
2. How may have changes related to globalisation, including the increasing fluidity of movement of people, information, ideas, goods, and services, informed changes between Newton and Newton's earlier conclusions and those of DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne (2012) twenty years later?
3. What are the implications of these research conclusions for students, parents, educators, and the scientific field at large?
4. How can the research conclusions be used to inform channels for addressing contemporary, twenty-first century barriers to scientific literacy within the global community?
The articles will be assessed critically and in conjunction with other, relevant, scholarly literature in order to answer these questions fully and objectively.
2. CRITIQUE OF NEWTON AND NEWTON
Newton and Newton examined young children's perceptions of both science in general as well as the scientist using a draw-a-scientist test. Participants were all between ages four and eleven, with the total participant pool being 1143. Age-related comparisons were made in order to assess changes of perceptions of the scientist and science over time. The authors concluded that children as young as six reflected stereotypical perceptions of the scientist and science, with both types of perceptions serving as potential barriers to students' later participation in the scientific field. Newton and Newton assert further that while strategies have been suggested and applied to alter student perceptions of science, these strategies may be applied too late given their conclusions.
2. 1. Critical Review of Rationale and Literature Review
The authors introduce their study by offering a brief overview of the evolution of scientific curricula over time within the UK before rationalising their inquiry by limited participation in science by women: "How children perceive science and the scientist may, in the long term, be important. In late adolescence, for instance, it is often seen as a factor in determining career choice and as one cause of the underrepresentation of women in science (Newton and Newton 1992: 332)." The proceeding literature review then offers a wide spectrum of studies highlighting gender-specific disparities in perceptions of science and their lack of changeability during adolescence. The implications made by the authors is that the existing literature clearly demonstrates that stereotypical perceptions of science and scientists exist among older children, though the age at which these perceptions are permanently engrained is unknown.
The nature of these perceptions is highlighted in the literature review as evidenced across national lines but particularly in Western societies. Newton and Newton make reference to an earlier study conducted in the United States that generated their own methodology. The draw-a-scientist test emerged from the American study within which children typically depicted the scientist as "bearded, balding, bespectacled, male, and wearing a white coat" (Newton and Newton 1992: 333). The draw-a-scientist test has been used in North America and Australia, with only similar age groups assessed. Specifically, the existing literature cited by the authors demonstrates that while the methods have been applied to children between ages five and eleven, a participant pool of their own range (4-11) has not yet been assessed using the draw-a-scientist test. The authors rationalise their methods further by highlighting that verbal literacy is not required, the test is easily administered, and the nature of the test disallows for significant influence of students' desire to offer a socially acceptable response.
The authors conclude their literature review, interestingly, by highlighting that perceptions of science and the scientist are not universal but may be specific to Western societies, with a Thai study showing that scientists were more closely linked to the female gender in the nation. Newton and Newton assert the importance of their study by showing that a population as broad as the one they seek to examine has not yet been assessed in the UK:
Here, we seek to describe some aspects of young children's perceptions of science and the scientist in England and, in particular, how they see science as a body of knowledge and as a process, and how they see the scientist. At the same time, the aim is to provide a part of a picture which, together with other evidence, might show something of the situation near the introduction of the National Curriculum and provide a datum line for future studies.
The dominant themes of the literature review are longstanding but not universal perceptions of the scientist and science among children aged five through adolescence, with these perceptions being stereotypical and unchangeable in nature for older children. The authors spend a disproportionate part of their review focusing intensely on the methodology they will employ, highlighting its consistency and validity across various populations. The gaps in the literature which the authors seek to fill are not, by extension, very wide ones; there are already cited studies in the UK as well as with children aged five through eleven. An additional weakness of the review is a total lack of evidence regarding the negative outcomes of these perceptions, as there is no attention linking limited participation in the scientific field or reduced scientific literacy to these perceptions. The strongest aspect of the review was the authors firm grounding of their chosen methodology in existing literature, with Newton and Newton primarily aiming to replicate the conclusions drawn in their cited literature.
2. 2. Critical Review of Methods, Data Analysis, and Results
The draw-a-scientist test was given to 1143 students aged four through eleven within one-week in 1990; the participants were pooled from eighty schools in the Northeast of England, with the younger children working in small groups to facilitate clarification. The data was then analysed to assess common attributes such as spectacles, beard, and baldness as well as the attributes of the picture's background. The specific variables evaluated in the background were two-fold; the regard of science as a body of knowledge and study of materials, living things, forces and energy, Earth and space, technology, and non-classifiable categories, as well as the regard of science as a process involving indoor work, outdoor work, manipulative procedures, observation, recording and communication, thinking, information technology, and non-classifiable categories. The authors then placed each drawing within the context of one of these categories.
The authors concluded that very young children did not have a clear concept of a scientist at all, with the gender of the scientist emerging as a critical and changing variable between Year 1 and Year 6. While boys predominantly depicted the scientist as male throughout primary school, most girls showed the scientist as a woman in Year 1; by Year 6, over 83% of the pictures showed the scientist as male. Laboratory coats, baldness, and beards were prevalent in the pictures as well, with the background primarily focusing on materials such as flasks, beaker, and Bunsen burners; this fell under the authors' "regarding science as a body of knowledge" category. With respect to regarding science as a process, ninety-five percent of participants highlighted indoor settings in their pictures.
While the methodology was described quite clearly, Newton and Newton did not articulate their rationale for placing certain attributes of either the scientist or science under the respective categories; specifically, all depicted materials were framed as evidence that children perceived science as a body of knowledge. The body of knowledge categorical umbrella was divergent from the process category, and yet the use of materials would apparently reflect a process as well. Overall, the data analysis process was not sufficiently described within the scope of the article, with the authors apparently depending on their literature review to ground and validate all methods. Additionally, the authors articulate one, salient limitation of their methods during their discussion section, positing that young children's drawing skills are inherently more limited than those of older students. While the authors highlight that the age of the students did not severely affect the results, as the most critical aspects of the picture were clear across all age groups, it seems unlikely that the drawing skills of the participants would not have significantly impacted the results.
The most salient point emerging from the study is with respect to gender, with depictions of the scientist as male clearly emerging among girls over time. This is a critical point that has been reflected in various studies over time, with intervention programmes introduced to students too late to be influential. Additionally critical is the consistent representation of science as an indoor activity, which may limit students' career aspirations in various fields of science. Newton and Newton (1992: 342) offer a strong delineation of the implications of their results, citing that the evidence highlighting that the stereotypical image of a scientist is alarming for a range of reasons but particularly with respect to interventions which occur too late in children's sociological programming: "Instead of remedial action, it may be more productive to address the problem early and at its roots. Cultural prejudice is not limited to science or to girls and if society believes in reducing the self-screening that is applied by both women and men when choosing a career, then it might be more effective to have strategies which address the broad foundations early."
The article embodies several strengths and weaknesses, with the most significant strength of the article emerging from the literature review's validation of the methodology. The discussion of the research implications was thorough as well, offsetting a slightly weak articulation of the methodology used for data analysis. An additional weakness was the literature review's close alignment with the research study, as gaps in the existing research were not clearly identified. The study's population was broad in scope, however, and, while significant subjectivity could have affected the test's administration in various settings, the results of the study are relevant to highlighting potentially obstructive perceptions related to the scientist as older and male and science as a purely indoor activity.
3. CRITIQUE OF DEWITT, ARCHER, AND OSBORNE
DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne's study reflects subtle, social shifts during the twenty-year time span since Newton and Newton's study. The authors assert concern over children's perceptions of scientists, positing that these views become solidified between the ages of ten and fourteen; this diverges significantly from Newton and Newton's conclusions that these views develop around age six. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne cite that the earlier years of this period, around age ten, are those in which a "liking for science is high," with more negative perceptions emerging later during adolescence. The participant pool for this study was far smaller than that of Newton and Newton'sstudy, with ninety-two students and seventy-eight parents assessed via interview for perceptions of science and scientists. The qualitative methodology revealed that while students hold an admiration for science, they continue to view the profession as "not for [them]" (DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne 2012: 2). The authors assert that the absence of hardly any negative perception of the scientist is notable, but that the framing of the scientist as a clever specialist may preclude professional interest among older students.
3. 1. Critical Review of Rationale and Literature Review
The authors introduce their study by highlighting that there are consistently fewer members of Western society choosing to study science at university and choosing careers in the profession; this diverges from Newton and Newton's introductory rationale which highlighted the evolution of scientific education in the UK. Connecting the lack of participation in the sciences to policy initiatives such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) coalition recommendations, the authors highlight that the perceptions of science by young people is now widely acknowledged as stereotypical, problematic, and narrow. Unlike Newton and Newton's description of the scientist stereotype which highlighted gender and skills, DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne additionally highlight the underrepresentation of ethnic and cultural minorities as integral to the stereotype.
The literature review was far more extensive in terms of number of studies and themes highlighted than Newton and Newton's, with the authors citing a wide range of studies acknowledging that the narrow perception of scientists has been found to begin at very young ages. Limited awareness of scientific work, resistance of perceptions to change, and emerging interventions for addressing these issues are all supported with empirical evidence. While Newton and Newton did not forge connections between interventions they deemed inadequate, beyond the inappropriate age of the students at the time of intervention, and the negative perceptions themselves, DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne assert evidence that only extended interactions with scientists and other intense interventions have been effective in reducing negative perceptions. The authors cite that "in our research, we consider whether students' lack of interest in pursuing science at postcompulsory levels (and in becoming a scientist) may spring in part from a mismatch between images communicated about science and scientists and the developing identities of young people" (DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne 2012: 4). Interestingly, the greatest weakness in DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne's literature review and rationale represents one of the strongest points of Newton and Newton's study.
While both studies assert the age of their intended population as integral to their study, Newton and Newton significantly grounded the comparatively young age of their population in evidence while DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne consistently posit that children's perceptions develop at a later age, during adolescence, and remain changeable until that time. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne do not, however, offer support in the literature for their selected age group, and this represents a key flaw in the study's rationale. Additionally absent from the literature review is significant attention to the relationship between parent and student perceptions, a connection which the authors highlight as relevant due to their own, previous study and six other studies linking parental attitudes to those of students. Given the amount of attention afforded parental attitudes in the methodology, however, this portion of the literature was insufficient in demonstrating why parental attitudes would be equally or more significant than those of other stakeholders such as educators.
3. 2. Critical Review of Methods, Data Analysis, and Results
The authors' methodology was unique in that it was a mixed-method study that drew from longitudinal, quantitative evidence as well as qualitative interviews. DeWitt, Archer,and Osborne highlight that the quantitative evidence was primarily used in order to contextualise the qualitative data. The survey portion was a five-year study which examined the science-related aspirations of children aged ten through fourteen. The survey was administered to 9,000 students at age ten and is only at the first stage of completion. Specifically, the entire five-year study has yet to be concluded, and the longitudinal data has yet to be analysed. Participants for the qualitative portion of the study were sourced from eleven English schools which were sampled from those responding from a group of 279 schools.
The sampling techniques used by the authors are described in considerable detail and represent a key strength of the study. The authors describe their sampling technique as "stratified," focusing on the purposeful diversification of the sample; stratified categories included multiethnic urban, low-achieving, multiethnic and high achieving, working class suburban, predominantly white, middle-class and high-achieving, single-sex, and regular. The latter, somewhat ambiguous category was framed as predominantly white, British, mix of lower and middle-class students, and average level of achievement. From these categories, thirty-five schools were approached for possible participation in the study and eleven agreed to participate in the study. Consent letters were sent to students and parents, and all parent-child pairs which agreed to participate in the study were included. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne go on to articulate the ethnicity and gender categories of all participants, with significantly more females, including students and mothers, participating in the study.
Semi-structured interviews represent an ideal qualitative method utilised for inductive reasoning purposes. Unless structured interviews which can closely resemble more quantitative methods in that there is little flexibility allowed during the interview process, semi-structured interviews allow for a wide spectrum of responses. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne (2012: 34) made use of qualitative reasoning techniques in order to address three, key areas of interest; these were attitudes, aspirations, and experiences of both parents and children: "We aimed to interrogate these data to begin to gain some insight into the environment in which students' images of science and scientists develop. Data that we collected that seemed particularly likely to provide such insight included parents' views about scientists, which have the potential to be communicated to their children, and students' own impressions of their science-keen peers." The theoretical framework applied was social constructionist, or a perspective that the social world of the participants can be accurately constructed through discourse; for this reason, discourse during the interview process represents an accurate and meaningful reflection of the participants' conceptualisations of science. The authors' articulation of their selected theoretical framework for data collection and analysis was markedly strong, contrasting sharply with the noted absence of any such discussion in Newton and Newton's article.
DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne review their selection of interviewers and various stages of data collection and analysis, with the latter research phase primarily defined by searching for dominant themes following the recording and transcription of interviews. The findings are organised by an initial discussion of the scientist stereotype by both parents and children before recommendations for stereotype modification. The authors address various themes in their discussion of the results, including the persistence of the "nerdy" scientist stereotype, its prevalence in the television media, and the fortunate ways in which parents aim to challenge the stereotype. In contrast to Newton and Newton's study which highlighted extreme stereotyping among children regarding both science and the scientist, DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne highlight that several stereotype-modifying discourses were apparent in the interviews. The "clever scientist" stereotype paralleled discourse regarding science "as normal," according to the authors, with a those engaged in the former type of discourse representing a primarily divergent group from the those that sought to refute the stereotype; this is interesting in that the scientist stereotype did not seem to coexist with the perception of science as normal:
In contrast to the stereotypical scientist discourses and the scientist as specialist discourses, we also found examples of participants who voiced constructions which specifically challenge/ refute the 'stereotypical' discourse, in that they assert that that there is no special or distinctive character of the scientist (scientist as normal). This discourse was less prevalent among the parents we interviewed than the 'specialist scientist' discourse, with 30 parents offering constructions congruent with the scientist as normal discourse, but it was predominant among the children, with 52 making statements aligned with it.
Overall, the authors identify contrasting themes in their research that did not appear within Newton and Newton's earlier study. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne did find evidence of the stereotypical scientist, calling this theme "highly visible among both parents and children;" and yet, the authors additionally assert that while this stereotype was clearly present, many participants either refuted this image or less blatantly indicated that they did not subscribe to this stereotype.
Of particular interest for the purposes of this inquiry is the perception of the scientist by children, as parents were not included in Newton and Newton's study. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne posit that while the scientist stereotype informed children's social constructions of the profession in at least a narrow capacity, it did not seem to influence their perceptions weightedly. Had the methodologies paralleled one another more closely, the clear divergence of Newton and Newton's data with that of DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne would indicate that perspectives of scientists among children are shifting positively in the twenty-first century, with this point further validated by the contrast between parents' and children's perspectives on science within DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne's research. The stereotype, in short, was less prevalent among children than among parents, and there were no clear patterns evident with respect to social class, gender, or ethnicity. The lack of influence of cultural background on participants' perspectives is intriguing, and one of the lone weaknesses within DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne's article is the failure to address this point.
A converse and formidable strength of the article, however, are the clear and viable recommendations made by the authors in dissolving the still pervasive, albeit weakening, stereotype. The authors warn against being too heartened by the apparent lack of subscription to the scientist stereotype by children, and highlight that interventions should be made in order to explore the validity and source of stereotypes, with those within the media being of particular concern, promote a vision of inclusion regarding science in relation to other subjects, and altering educator perceptions. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne (2012: 49) make a final point of criticising the English school system, specifically, as a structural barrier for students seeking to pursue science as a career, as the options are too narrow to suit the diverse student population: "Broadening awareness of the range of science careers, while far from a panacea, provides an opportunity to open up perceptions of scientists and to make more evident the ways in which the pursuit of science could align with students' developing identity." Unlike their other recommendations which include addressing curricular changes and educator perceptions, however, the authors do not address specific ways in which to dissolve these systemic barriers.
4. DISCUSSION AND SYNTHESIS
The articles assessed herein contrast with one another in terms of the practical components of the study, with both inquiries embodying several strengths and weaknesses, as well as the implications of the studies' conclusions for the broader social, economic, and political spheres of the global community. In returning to the research questions, key conclusions can be drawn from these two studies, with each of them serving as a microcosm of student perceptions toward scientists at each end of a twenty-year spectrum. Shifts have clearly taken place during this span of time, and these changes are reflected in the diverging conclusions of the researchers. A surprising issue emerging from the comparison of Newton and Newton to DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne, however, is that despite these changes, the dominant theme in each study's discussion is the same; that stereotypes of the scientist persist and pervade student perceptions, to varying degrees of force, representing a potential barrier to student career choice.
4. 1. Systematic Articulation of Objectives, Methodology Alignment, Data Collection and Management, and Communication of Findings
The first research question asked the following: How do the two articles compare with one another in terms of systematic articulation of objectives, alignment of methodologies with these objectives, data collection and management, and communication of findings within the scope of the article? Both Newton and Newton and DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne articulated similar objectives, with those being to assess the perceptions of students regarding scientists and/or science. Newton and Newton's study employed the draw-a-scientist test in order to forge connections between possibly stereotypical perceptions of the scientist or science as a field and the age of the participant, strongly emphasising that narrow perceptions of the scientist are engrained at an early age. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne, in contrast, examined both parent and child attitudes targeting a later age group.
While Newton and Newton validate their methodology by highlighting a range of studies which make use of the same test, they highlight that a salient limitation of their inquiry was the drawing ability of students according to age; though they do not elaborate on this point, the age of the student could have easily affected the ways in which the scientist was depicted. The draw-a-scientist test has been used frequently in order to assess the perceptions of students regarding scientists since 1957. According to Finson, the persistence of stereotypes is validated very consistently and over time by the test.
However, a mythical element has emerged during recent years, particularly during the latter years of the twentieth century, which framed the scientist as a mythical creature or Frankenstein-like; this is likely sourced significantly from media imagery. A central weakness of the draw-a-scientist methodology, however, and one that was readily apparent in Newton and Newton's study despite stated objectives for making recommendations for change is the inability of the test to highlight how to discern and assess student perceptions according to their roots and corresponding interventions. Finson highlights that the draw-a-scientist test has been validated consistently by other types of methodologies but has not served to link stereotypical perceptions with relevant interventions: "Aspects of this line of research remain unaddressed, except in occasional lines of discussion in the literature. As-yet unanswered questions include the following: At what age, or grade level, do stereotypical images begin to form? How rapidly do these images form, and how are they reinforced? What are the specific factors influencing these perceptions, and where do they come from?" The draw-a-scientist test does not, in contrast to the semi-structured interviews utilised by DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne sufficiently forge links between stereotypes and needed interventions. A key weakness of 1992 article was too broad recommendations without significant linkages to data-sourced results. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne, however, were able to use student and parent attitudes to make both at-home and in-school recommendations for intervention. While a later article written by Newton and Newton highlights several, practical recommendations drawing from their 1992 study, these recommendations are some embodied to the same, narrow extent within the earlier study.
4. 2. Globalisation and the Studies' Conclusions
Globalisation has significantly affecting fields related to science and technology, as evidenced by STEM and other initiatives which aim to promote positive attitudes, significant participation, and general advancement of science among young populations. The second research question asked the following: How may have changes related to globalisation, including the increasing fluidity of movement of people, information, ideas, goods, and services, informed changes between Newton and Newton's earlier conclusions and those of DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne twenty years later? Clearly, the studies diverge from one another in several ways, with the later article reflecting generally more positive responses regarding the scientist stereotype. In essence, while both studies highlight that the stereotype exists, the later study embodied an ideal methodology for assessing the level of commitment had by participants to the stereotype, with this commitment being markedly low, particularly among children. Moreover, the difference in adherence to the scientist stereotype between parents and children was significant in DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne's study, potentially representing progress in the weakening of the scientist stereotype.
The global community has rendered science and technology more paramount in fueling the worldwide economy, with the World Wide Web serving as a key driver of cross-national communication and, by extension, globalisation itself. An alternative difference relevant to globalisation between the two studies is the emphasis on the media, albeit a minimal one, emerging from the later study. DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne specifically highlight the media as a dominant theme within the interviews, appearing to affect both parent and child attitudes toward the scientist; this aligns with Finson's critique of the draw-a-scientist test which frames the media as heavily influencing the increasingly mythical stereotype of the scientist which may be more dangerous to the field's sustainability than the specialist or "nerdy" stereotype.
4. 3. Stakeholder Implications
The 2012 study highlights that while the stereotype of the scientist as clever, Caucasian, and male may be weakening in terms of its influence over children, it continues to serve as a barrier to the pursuit of scientific careers among children. The second research question asked the following: What are the implications of these research conclusions for students, parents, educators, and the scientific field at large? In essence, DeWitt, Archer, and Osborne highlight that those of minority backgrounds and otherwise socially immobile children may face the greatest challenges as a result of stereotyping the scientist, deciding that it was "not for them" in terms of a viable career option. By extension, the implications of these conclusions are significant for various stakeholder groups, with a remaining need to engrain workable interventions into students' school experiences in order to combat the influence of these stereotypes.
Parents, educators, and scientific professionals must form partnerships with one another in order to combat the negative impact of stereotyping on multicultural and gender-specific inclusion. Evidence suggests that career decisions are affected by the stereotype in that few children believe they conform to such a stereotype. By extension, the notion that careers in science are "not for them" serves as an obstacle despite the apparently emerging idea that the stereotypical science does not always represent an accurate depiction of the profession.
4. 4. Addressing Barriers: Recommendations for Promoting Scientific Literacy
Both articles highlight that the educational system is responsible for both the inadvertent sustaining as well as the now-necessary refutation of the scientist stereotype. The final research question asked the following: How can the research conclusions be used to inform channels for addressing contemporary, twenty-first century barriers to scientific literacy within the global community? Osborne and Dillion prepared a report for the Nuttfield Foundation regarding the failures of scientific education in Europe, highlighting that despite fortunate additions to science curricula across international lines, gaps continue to persist which will ultimately limit scientific literacy and preclude career opportunities:
Our contention is that such an education does not meet the needs of the majority of students who require a broad overview of the major ideas that science offers, how it produces reliable knowledge and the limits to certainty. Second, both the content and pedagogy associated with such curricula are increasingly failing to engage young people with the further study of science. Indeed, there is a strong negative correlation between students' interest in science and their achievement in science tests.
The study is largely rationalised by the notion that career choice in scientific fields is declining and curricula needs to cease being so fragmented, with knowledge framed in terms of disjointed concepts in the absence of cohesion. The authors recommend that science education be reframed as preparation for those seeking a future career in the sciences, a field to be purposefully presented more accurately and broadly: "EU countries need to invest in improving the human and physical resources available to schools for informing students, both about careers in science, where the emphasis should be on why working in science is an important cultural and humanitarian activity, and careers from science where the emphasis should be on the extensive range of potential careers that the study of science affords" (Dillon and Osborne 2008: 9). DeWitt et al. (2011) corroborates these assertions by asserting that science aspirations, attitudes toward science, and ultimate career choice are affected during the adolescent years.
The stereotype of the scientist has been consistently evident in empirical research for several decades, with only minimal changes taking place in the ways in which children perceive the scientist over time. Critical is it to remember, however, that the impact of technology on the global community has been recent, sudden, and unprecedented. Consequently, student perceptions of scientists may well continue to shift exponentially during the coming few years more than they have since the median decades of the twentieth century. However, the need to align the educational system with the needs of global society, specifically to weaken the influence of the scientist stereotype in order to promote optimal career choices in the field, is an urgent and necessary one. The most salient recommendations thus far have asserted the importance of reframing both science as well as the scientific profession within the public school realm, fervently embedding the wide range of opportunity and accessibility into science education.
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A PhD writer in graduate studies (science-oriented).
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