January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

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.

CCSAdBOur 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 simpkins@uci.edu

References

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.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.