science and children: sept 1996 pp30-33

How Do Students Really View Science and Scientists?

Interview your students using the Draw-a-Scientist Test and contribute to an original research project.

By Charles R. Barman


How DO YOUR STUDENTS see scientists? Are their images of scientists influenced by the corn-mon stereotypes of the white male wearing a lab coat and eyeglasses? Do your students view science as a part of their lives, or do they perceive it as something that is done only in the classroom and the laboratory?

Several studies over the last two decades have assessed students' im ages of scientists (Chambers, 1983; Finson, Beaver, and Cramond, 1995; Huber and Burton, 1995; Krause, 1977; Schibeci and Sorensen, 1983). Each of these studies, including one reported in Science and Children in 1989, has shown that students possess interesting stereotypic images of scientists (Fort and Varney, 1989). Despite the efforts of science curriculum developers to depict scientists as people from all walks of life and a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, students generally perceive scientists as white males. Many also have a narrow view of how scientists work and see scientists as individuals who work alone in a laboratory.

To help students understand and use science, it is imperative for teachers to first gain insight into the way their students perceive this discipline. Information about students' perceptions is also vital to anyone involved in developing science curriculum materials. Therefore, Science and Children would like to invite you to help us gather data related to specific perceptions students hold about science and how they apply science in their everyday lives. The information gathered and submitted by our readers will be published in Science and Children in early 1997. Additionally, Science and Children will solicit manu- scripts addressing the data and suggesting ways to improve science learning in the elementary classroom now and into the twenty-first century.

Assessment Tools

The most common technique for assessing students' images of scientists is the Draw-a-Scientist Test (DAST) developed by Chambers (1983). In using DAST, investigators ask students to reveal their image of a scientist through a drawing. To provide a reliable and efficient format for analyzing students' drawings, Finson, Beaver, and Cramond (1995) developed the Draw-a-Scientist Checklist (DAST-C). Each item on the DAST-C represents a stereotypic characteristic derived from reviews of literature relating to students' images of scientists. The more items checked on the DAST-C, the more stereotypes that appear in a student's drawing. ( Figure 1 is an adapted version of the DAST-C.)

The following interview procedure incorporates the DAST and DAST-C. However, to gain additional insights into students' views of science and how they apply it in their lives, it addresses such questions as

Conducting the Interviews

For each interview, you will need

Each interview will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Conduct the interviews in a place where you and the student are comfortable and will not be distracted by noise or peers. Choose times when you are able to work individually with students, such as before school, after school, or at lunch time. During each interview, sit next to the student at a table and provide ample time for the student to draw and respond to your questions. Provide the student with an 8" x 11" piece of white paper and a set of colored pencils or crayons.

Even though the questions are standardized, the interview should be informal enough that you can follow up on a student's responses by asking for clarification or expansion of the student's ideas. It is also very important to have the student explain the drawings because the student's meaning or intent may not be apparent to you. Make sure that you obtain complete answers from each student. If you feel the student needs to expand on an idea, ask for further explanation.

Tape-record each interview so you can conduct further analysis after- ward. Also, be sure to record each student's age and gender. When you are ready to conduct the interview, use the following set of questions and directions:

Begin by asking,
"Will you please draw a picture of a scientist doing science?"
Allow ample time for the student to complete the drawing. When the student is finished, ask,
"Will you please explain your drawing?"
Tape-record the explanation. Next have the student turn the paper over and ask,
"Will you draw a picture of yourself doing science in school?"
Again allow ample time for the student to complete the drawing. Upon completion of the second drawing, ask,
"Will you please explain your drawing?"
Tape-record the explanation. Finally, ask the student,
"Can you think of some ways you use what you learn in science outside of school?"
Tape-record this response.

Analyzing the Data

Once you have completed your interviews, listen to each taped interview while observing the corresponding drawings. After this preliminary review, examine each drawing in greater depth and replay the segment of the tape that accompanies it. Use the following steps to analyze and record the data from each interview.

Listen to the tape of the student's explanation of the drawing. Once you are sure you know what the drawing is showing, use the DAST Checklist (Figure 1) to record any stereotypic images represented. Use one checklist per student drawing and mark each category of stereotype only once. Even if multiple images are present in the drawing (such as two or more scientific instruments), place only one check mark in the space. If the student has drawn more than one scientist, mark down every stereotypical image that appears in the drawing, but mark each category only once. After you have analyzed all of the "scientist drawings," tally the total number of checks for each item in Figure 2.

Look at the drawing of the student doing science in school and listen to the student's explanation. Note how many students show themselves doing science as opposed to listening or reading about science. Record this and any other pertinent information in Figure 2.

Listen to the student's explanation of how he or she perceives the use of science outside of school. In Figure 2, record the number of stu dents who think they can use science outside of school and identify how they perceive themselves using science. Can the students generalize the use of science to a variety of tasks, such as observing plants and animals, predicting weather, or caring for plants and pets? Or, do they think their use of science merely mirrors what they do in school (that is, repeating activities that they did in class)?

To be included in this study, send your data to Managing Editor, Science and Children, National Science Teachers Association, 1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201-3000. Please include all student drawings (originals or copies), as well as all checklists from Figure 1 and Figure 2.


Resources
Chambers, D.W. (1983). Stereotypic images of the scientist: The draw- a-scientist test. Science Education, 67 (2), 255-265.

Finson, K.D., Beaver, J.B., and Cramond, B.L. (1995). Development and field test of a checklist for the draw-a-scientist test. School Science and Mathematics, 95 (4), 195-205.

Fort, D.C., and Varney, H.L. (1989). How students see scientists: Mostly male, mostly white, and mostly benevolent. Science and Children, 26 (8), 8-13.

Huber, R.A., and Burton, G.M. (1995). What do students think scientists look like? School Science and Mathematics, 95 (7), 371-376.

Krause, J.P. (1977). How children "see" scientists. Science and Children, 14 (8), 9-10.

Schibeci, R.A., and Sorensen, I. (1983). Elementary school children's perceptions of scientists. School Science and Mathematics, 83(1), 1419.

CHARLES R. BARMAN is a professor of science and environmental education at the Indiana University School of Education in Indianapolis.



Figure 1

Use one copy of this checklist for each student drawing, then compile your data in Figure 2. Submit student drawings (originals or copies), as well as all checklists from Figure 1 and Figure 2 to
Managing Editor, Science and Children, National Science Teachers Association, 1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201-3000.
The deadline for submitting data is January 15, 1997. All individuals who contribute will be given credit in the published article.


Draw-a-Scientist Test (DAST) Checklist
Student's Name ________________________________________________

Gender (circle): M / F Age __________ Grade level ________

1. Lab coat (usually but not necessarily white)
2. Eyeglasses
3. Facial hair (beard, mustache, abnormally long sideburns)
4. Symbols of research (scientific instruments, lab equipment of any kind)
Types of scientific instruments / equipment.
5. Symbols of knowledge (books, filing cabinets, clipboards, pens in pockets, and so on)
6. Technology (the "products" of science)
Types of technology (televisions, telephones, missiles, computers, and so on):
7. Relevant captions (formulae, taxonomic classification, the "eureka!" syndrome)
8. Male gender only
9. Caucasian only
10. Middle-aged or elderly scientist
11. Mythic stereotypes (Frankenstein creatures, Jekyll/Hyde figures, etc.)
12. Indications of secrecy (signs or warnings that read "Private," "Keep Out," "Do Not Enter," "Go Away," "Top Secret," and so on)
13. Scientist working indoors
14. Indications of danger
Note: Several images of the same type in a single drawing count as one image (for example, two scientists each with eyeglasses receive only one check, not two).


Figure 2

Data Tally Sheet

Total number of students interviewed _____________

Number of males __________ Number of females __________ Grade level __________


I. Students' Image of a Scientist (DAST-C Total Marks)

Stereotypic Image Total Marks

1. Lab coat
2. Eyeglasses
3. Facial hair
4. Symbols of research
5. Symbols of knowledge
6. Technology represented
7. Relevant captions
8. Male gender only
9. Caucasian only
10. Middle-aged or elderly scientist
11. Mythic stereotypes
12. Indications of secrecy
13. Scientist working indoors
14. Indications of danger


II. Doing Science in School

Number of students reading a book Number of students taking notes
Number of students doing an activity
Please note any other appropriate comments related to this section on an additional sheet.


III. Using Science Outside of School
Number of students who think they can use science outside of school
Number of students who can generalize the use of science processes to everyday situations (observing, predicting, measuring, and so on)
Number of students who only see themselves repeating activities they do in school
Number of students who do not see how they can use science outside of school
Please note any other appropriate comments related to this section on an additional sheet.


9/13f/96 - 9/23m/96