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Pre-tertiary Science: A critical influence on choice of tertiary course.

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Presentation on theme: "Pre-tertiary Science: A critical influence on choice of tertiary course."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pre-tertiary Science: A critical influence on choice of tertiary course

2 Dr Natalie Brown Faculty of Education Dr Anthony Koutoulis A/Prof Susan Jones Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology University of Tasmania

3 Tertiary enrolments in some traditional science disciplines have been decliningTertiary enrolments in some traditional science disciplines have been declining Recognition of requirement for increased Scientific Literacy amongst the community and for innovative scientistsRecognition of requirement for increased Scientific Literacy amongst the community and for innovative scientists Very few Science graduates select teaching as a careerVery few Science graduates select teaching as a career

4 Why this research? Life Sciences somewhat buffered from the downward enrolment trend (Dobson, 2003)Life Sciences somewhat buffered from the downward enrolment trend (Dobson, 2003) Teachers of Biology recognised as being the most appropriately qualified (ACDS, 2005)Teachers of Biology recognised as being the most appropriately qualified (ACDS, 2005) –Opportunity to explore ‘What Works’ –Early identification of any potential problems –Provide valuable baseline data –Suggest further research

5 My particular interest… In what ways, if any, did teachers and/or secondary courses influence these students’ choice of tertiary study? In what ways, if any, did teachers and/or secondary courses influence these students’ choice of tertiary study?

6 Data Collection Participants Students enrolled in Life Sciences (Plant Science and/or Zoology) at UTASStudents enrolled in Life Sciences (Plant Science and/or Zoology) at UTAS 4 yrs in 2002 (1 st, 2 nd, 3 rd, Hons); 1 st yr in yrs in 2002 (1 st, 2 nd, 3 rd, Hons); 1 st yr in 2003Instrument Anonymous written questionnaireAnonymous written questionnaire Return rate 57% (322 students)

7 Data analysis Descriptive StatisticsDescriptive Statistics Qualitative analysis of open-ended responsesQualitative analysis of open-ended responses –Identification of categories of responses and emerging themes (Patton, 1990)

8 Motivations for entering Life Sciences

9 Was there any particular course/experience or teacher in your secondary schooling that influenced your decision to enrol in the Life Sciences? Please explain.

10 Influence of secondary schooling on choice of Life Sciences

11 Categories of Influence (From Comments: n = 215)

12 Intrinsic Motivation sample comments …I’ve been interested in the environment and animals ever since a young age Persistent natural enquiry for explanations

13 Family/Friends sample comments My family, they always pushed me to take an interest in plants and the environment I guess because my Dad’s a ranger I have always been exposed to the area Mother is a biology teacher at xxx College. She has always encouraged my interest in life sciences

14 Career/Enrolment Advice sample comments Enrolment day discussion with Ag. Science people Learning about park ranger jobs Course counsellor recommended it

15 Influential Teachers and Courses Teachers: 30% of comments concerned positive influence of a teacher or teachers. Of these, 76% referred specifically to senior secondary teachers. Course-related: 46% of comments concerned positive influence of courses. Of these, 66% referred specifically to senior secondary courses.

16 Emerging themes: Influential Senior Secondary Teacher/s Interesting Interesting Enthusiastic Enthusiastic Encouraging Encouraging Excited/Passionate about the subject Excited/Passionate about the subject Inspiring Inspiring Motivated Motivated Knowledgeable Knowledgeable Had confidence in my ability Had confidence in my ability

17 My teachers were informative (beyond what they had to be) and enthusiastic and they encouraged me to pursue my interests. My biology, physics and maths teachers. All of them were interesting and allowed certain interests I had to be expanded.

18 Chemistry teacher at college was so excited about the subject that it rubbed off Biology teacher inspired me to do what he does My chemistry and biology teachers in college both motivated me to find out more about what I take for granted every day

19 Influence of Course/s Biology and Life SciencesBiology and Life Sciences Environmental ScienceEnvironmental Science ChemistryChemistry Agricultural ScienceAgricultural Science Outdoor EducationOutdoor Education Other Senior Secondary (Geology, Sports Science, Marine Science)Other Senior Secondary (Geology, Sports Science, Marine Science) Secondary Science (Biology, Agricultural Science, Physics, Chemistry, General Science)Secondary Science (Biology, Agricultural Science, Physics, Chemistry, General Science)

20 Emerging Themes: Influential Senior Secondary courses Interesting Interesting Fun, Enjoyable Fun, Enjoyable Practical Work Practical Work Relevance Relevance Multi-dimensionality of the courses Multi-dimensionality of the courses In-depth study In-depth study Student success Student success

21 Environmental Science at college - made interesting because I see a direct application to every-day life I enjoyed the course because of personal interest and relevance in today’s society… …Life Sciences, … it’s a diverse subject covering different types of knowledge, a multi-dimensional genre. Never really predictable.

22 Characteristics of Senior Secondary Courses Focussed on one particular disciplineFocussed on one particular discipline Content-drivenContent-driven Prescribed practical componentPrescribed practical component Written by an ‘expert’ teamWritten by an ‘expert’ team Self-selected by students (Tasmanian Qualifications Authority)Self-selected by students (Tasmanian Qualifications Authority)

23 Influential Experiences (extra-curricular) Work experienceWork experience Melbourne Zoo; Antarctic Division; Gene Technology; Parks & Wildlife Melbourne Zoo; Antarctic Division; Gene Technology; Parks & Wildlife Rio Tinto Biology ProgramRio Tinto Biology Program Biology OlympiadBiology Olympiad Scuba Diving CourseScuba Diving Course Outdoor Education/Adventure EducationOutdoor Education/Adventure Education BushwalkingBushwalking TravelTravel Previous employment or trainingPrevious employment or training

24 Conclusions Teachers and courses were significant influences on student choice of tertiary study in Life Science and senior secondary study was a critical point where this influence occurredTeachers and courses were significant influences on student choice of tertiary study in Life Science and senior secondary study was a critical point where this influence occurred Senior Secondary Courses that were perceived as interesting, enjoyable and relevant appeared to be particularly influential on student choice of tertiary study with students appreciating the opportunity for hands-on, practical and outdoor workSenior Secondary Courses that were perceived as interesting, enjoyable and relevant appeared to be particularly influential on student choice of tertiary study with students appreciating the opportunity for hands-on, practical and outdoor work

25 Conclusions (continued) Teachers seen as interesting, enthusiastic, motivating and encouraging influenced student choice of tertiary studyTeachers seen as interesting, enthusiastic, motivating and encouraging influenced student choice of tertiary study Science-related extra-curricular experiences were identified as positive influences on some students encouraging pursuit of science-related studiesScience-related extra-curricular experiences were identified as positive influences on some students encouraging pursuit of science-related studies

26 Acknowledgements Ms Vickie Moore, Research Assistant who collected the data for this project. The students who took part in the project. The students who took part in the project.


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