Science-related aspirations across the primary-secondary divide: Evidence from two surveys in England

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Students' engagement with science and the numbers pursuing further study of science continue to be a concern among policy-makers, particularly in Western countries. Previous research reflects that most children have positive attitudes to science at age 10 but that, by age 14, attitudes towards and interest in further pursuit of science have declined. The Science Aspirations and Career Choice (ASPIRES) project, a 5-year longitudinal study, seeks to trace and track changes in students' interest in science and in scientific careers over the key period of ages 10–14. Building on an initial survey (consisting primarily of Likert-type items) of over 9,000 children in their last year of primary school, we explore shifts in attitudes and aspirations in science as reflected in a second survey of students from this cohort (over 5,600 students), completed when children were in their second year of secondary school (ages 12–13). Survey findings are supplemented by longitudinal interview data from 85 children. Contrary to previous research, descriptive, multivariate and multi-level modelling (MLM) analyses of the data indicate that the majority of our sample enjoy school science in secondary school and hold positive views of scientists. However, as with the primary school data, these positive attitudes also continue not to translate into an interest in ‘being’ a scientist. Attention is drawn to the importance of families and student experiences of school science in helping to explain this gap.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1609-1629
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number10
Early online date9 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014


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