UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Student ideas about scientists and their work Myrtle , Raymond Peter


Students in a summer work experience in university science and engineering laboratories were interviewed before, and near the end, of their three week placement to find their ideas about scientists and their work. The study indicates that the friendliness of the people was a significant feature of the scientist's setting for all the students. Although all but one of the seven boys mentioned elements of the task or working with equipment first when discussing significant features of the experience, they all commented on the friendliness of the people. However, for all five girls and one of the boys, the friendliness of the people was the most significant feature of the experience and little was said about the task or working with equipment. Before the placement the students were unsure of the friendliness of the scientists, and anticipated that scientists had serious and grave dispositions. Many thought the atmosphere of the laboratory would be formal, while others held a variety of ideas about the laboratory's formality. Scientists' work was thought to be demanding, requiring dedicated, hardworking, single-minded, serious persons who worked abnormal hours. Following the placement, the students were relieved to find that 'scientists were friendly'. In addition they found that the people in a scientist's setting were informal, that they were 'not serious' and were often 'joking around'. The students' initial idea that a scientist's work is demanding was confirmed. Following the placement the students thought that scientists needed to be dedicated and serious about their work, but like other professionals, scientists sometimes needed to work 'abnormal hours'. While scientists did concentrate on the job, they were not 'thinking day and night only about their work'. However, the students thought that becoming a scientist took more effort than other similar careers. There was no significant change in career choices as result of the experience. Based on the results of this study it is recommended that in order to improve students' views of science, teachers and others should emphasize that scientists are friendly, informal, intelligent, normal people, and that there are a range of work roles in science requiring various levels of education, effort and commitment.

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