Preparing for New School Year: Supporting High School Students’ Science Motivation
Posted: Friday, August 19th, 2016
by Sandra Simpkins and Yangyang Liu
When science teachers prepare for a new school year, they often think about how they can teach their students science concepts and principles in an interesting way. Not only is it important to spark students’ initial interest in science, but is also key to help maintain students’ interest in science. Without that continued support, students who were once interested in science run the risk of losing that interest (Renninger & Hidi, 2016). In fact, 45% of 10th grade students interested in pursuing a STEM career (that is, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career) lost that interest by the end of high school (Aschbacher, Li, & Roth, 2010) – making high school a critical time for science. High school is often the first time when students can opt out of science coursework as most states require less than four years of science coursework to graduate. When students lose interest in science, they are less likely to take elective science courses – which hinders their college science prospects.
Science teachers are not the only ones who can support students’ science interest. Teachers can help support students’ interest by getting them connected with exciting science opportunities at their school or community, such as clubs and museums. One goal of our research has been to study the importance of family support in students’ motivation in a variety of areas including science, math, English, sports, and music. With funding from the National Science Foundation, we have spent several years studying whether family support is important for the Latino high school students’ science motivation.
The typical narrative around parent involvement in high school, particularly for ethnic minority and low-income families, is that parents are not involved. It is true that high school parents typically are less involved in their children’s schools than elementary and middle school parents. But, the focus of many of these studies is on parents’ contact with teachers and involvement in school opportunities, such as the PTA. Many parents have hectic work schedules that make meeting with teachers challenging. And, for some cultures parents believe they should defer to the school and focus their support within their home. While parents may be pulling back from being on the school campus, many parents are still doing things at home.
Our research suggests that parents’ home-based support of their 9th grade students in science is related to how much students believe they are good at science and their value of science in 9th grade and increases in students’ motivational beliefs from 9th to 10th grade (Simpkins, Gaskin, & Kloberdanz, 2016; Simpkins, Price, & Garcia, 2015). Parents’ support predicts students’ motivational beliefs even after we take into account students’ science course grade and whether they are in honors or basic science, which suggests this relationship is not because students who are doing well in science have strong motivational beliefs and supportive parents. So, what were parents doing at home?
In our study, we have parents and high school students report how often parents provide general positive support, engage in science-related activities and conversations, as well as support their student in their science coursework. Positive general support includes things such as telling teenagers they are good at science and helping their teenager feel better when science is hard. Parent-adolescent co-activity includes watching science TV shows, talking about science-related current events, and talking about science careers/majors. Last, support around science coursework includes behaviors like checking if their teenagers’ homework is completed and encouraging them to work with friends or other family members who are good at science. Importantly, many of these parent behaviors do not require parents to be science experts. Some parents hesitate to help their children with science-related schoolwork because they feel the subject matter is too complicated or surpasses their level of education. However, our study suggests that parents can engage in other meaningful ways that do not require mastery of science facts in textbooks and still help their teenagers’ motivation in science.
As part of one paper, we tested whether there were differences between White boys, White girls, Latino boys, and Latina girls. White students and male students received more support and had higher motivational beliefs in science than Latino students and female students. As a result, White boys often had the highest science resources whereas Latina girls had the lowest science resources. However, we found that many of ethnic differences were partially explained by family background such as parent education and parents’ language preference. In other words, Latino students may have lower parent support and science motivation than white students, in part, because Latino families often have more limited parental resources, such as education. In addition, Latina girls continued to be at a disadvantage compared to other groups. Teachers might consider providing additional resources to Latina students or students whose parents have more limited education. As part of teachers’ planning for the upcoming year, it might be helpful to think about how they can help parents support their children at home.
Sandra Simpkins and Yangyang Liu are a part of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. They can be reached at email@example.com
Aschbacher, P. R., Li, E., & Roth, E. J. (2010). Is science me? High school students’ identities, participation and aspirations in science, engineering, and medicine. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47: 564–582.
Renninger, K. A., & Hidi, S. E. (2016). The power of interest for motivation and engagement. New York: Routledge.
Simpkins, S.D., Gaskin, E., & Kloberdanz, E. (2016, March). Does the expectancy-value models hold for Latino parents of high school science students? In J. Fredricks (chair), Individual and contextual influences on adolescents’ STEM motivation and engagement. Paper presented at the Society of Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting, Baltimore, MD.
Simpkins, S. D., Price, C. & Garcia, K. (2015). Parental support and high school students’ motivation in biology, chemistry, and physics: Understanding differences among Latino and Caucasian boys and girls. Journal for Research in Science Teaching, 52, 1386-1407.
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…