Science self-efficacy, attributions and attitudes toward science among high school students

Date of Completion

January 1996


Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Sciences




College science educators are challenged both to prepare future scientists and to promote science literacy for the general public. To enhance recruitment into the sciences and to decrease attrition from the sciences, it is essential to understand why students, especially women and minorities, tend not to pursue science. Research has shown that attitude toward science correlated with achievement, selection of courses in high school and college and pursuing science as a career.^ The purpose of this study was to examine a structural equation model which estimated and tested the relationships among the latent variables general aptitude, science self-efficacy, science attribution and attitudes toward science for a nationwide sample of 411 high school students. Multi-group models were analyzed to determine if the structural model was invariant across gender, ethnicity and ability.^ Results showed that Test of Science-Related Attitudes (TOSRA) (Fraser, 1977) and the Science Self-efficacy Questionnaire (Smist, 1993) provided reliable and valid measures of their respective constructs. They also were found to operate consistently across gender and ethnic groups. With respect to science attitude differences between males and females, males showed more positive attitudes toward careers in science and were more open minded than females, but females had more positive attitudes about the normality of scientists.^ Much research has been done concerning the underrepresentation of women and minorities in professional occupations resulting from their negative attitudes toward science and low self-efficacy beliefs concerning performance in science. In this study, males showed significantly higher self-efficacy in two areas of science: the laboratory and chemistry. However, there were no gender differences in the other two areas measured, namely, biology and physics.^ The results from this study also showed that although students in AP science classes may be considering a career in science, they don't necessarily like science classes. They do enjoy performing experiments and have a high degree of confidence in dealing with laboratory tasks. For females and minorities, especially, college educators need to work at fostering their self-efficacy and improving their attitudes in order to keep them interested in the sciences. ^