The relationship of attitudes toward science, cognitive style, and self-concept to achievement in chemistry at the secondary school level

Gerald Richard Kirk, Florida International University


There is currently a crisis in science education in the United States. This statement is based on the National Science Foundation's report stating that the nation's students, on average, still rank near the bottom in science and math achievement internationally. This crisis is the background of the problem for this study. This investigation studied learner variables that were thought to play a role in teaching chemistry at the secondary school level, and related them to achievement in the chemistry classroom. Among these, cognitive style (field dependence/independence), attitudes toward science, and self-concept had been given considerable attention by researchers in recent years. These variables were related to different competencies that could be used to measure the various types of achievement in the chemistry classroom at the secondary school level. These different competencies were called academic, laboratory, and problem solving achievement. Each of these chemistry achievement components may be related to a different set of learner variables, and the main purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of these relationships. Three instruments to determine attitudes toward science, cognitive style, and self-concept were used for data collection. Teacher grades were used to determine chemistry achievement for each student. Research questions were analyzed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficients and t-tests. Results indicated that field independence was significantly correlated with problem solving, academic, and laboratory achievement. Educational researchers should therefore investigate how to teach students to be more field independent so they can achieve at higher levels in chemistry. It was also true that better attitudes toward the social benefits and problems that accompany scientific progress were significantly correlated with higher achievement on all three academic measures in chemistry. This suggests that educational researchers should investigate how students might be guided to manifest more favorable attitudes toward science so they will achieve at higher levels in chemistry. An overall theme that emerged from this study was that findings refuted the idea that female students believed that science was for males only and was an inappropriate and unfeminine activity. This was true because when the means of males and females were compared on the three measures of chemistry achievement, there was no statistically significant difference between them on problem solving or academic achievement. However, females were significantly better in laboratory achievement.

Subject Area

Science education|Cognitive therapy|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Kirk, Gerald Richard, "The relationship of attitudes toward science, cognitive style, and self-concept to achievement in chemistry at the secondary school level" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9975006.