Science and technology are important parts of culture. Thus today there is a need for a science education which promotes ‘science for all’ and ‘scientific literacy’ in order to prepare students for citizenship. Earlier studies indicate that many students find it hard to learn science and technology in school. They lack interest in it and have negative attitudes toward science and technology. There are also differences between the interests of girls and boys, as has been known for a long time.
Recent research indicates that the concepts used in discussions of how to promote scientific literacy are too broad and underdeveloped. Science has mainly been taught for the purpose of preparing a few for further studies and has neglected the task of preparing all for citizenship. There has also been too little consideration of the relation of science literacy to specific science content. Historically, almost the same science content has been taught as is taught today. Science in society has been separated from science in school.
Commonly used concepts like ‘science’, ‘school subjects’, ‘students’, ‘interest’ and ‘attitudes’ are too broad to be used in meaningful discussion. Research results show a need for a stronger connection between specific content and students’ experiences outside school. In addition, there is a need to understand societal development and the mechanisms of media and modernity.
This thesis investigates student perspectives on science and technology within the affective domain of science education. The work has been carried out as part of Swedish participation in the worldwide Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) project. The empirical work presented in this thesis is extensive, and also takes into account teachers’ perspectives, the age of students, and a social theory of media.
The results show that students do have an interest in science and technology, with age and sex affecting their interest in specific content. However, broad concepts like ‘science’ or ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ obscure the differences that emerge from a content level analysis. Students are different and their interest is content specific. Furthermore, the results show that student interest is not in line with what their teachers say they present for instruction. Teachers’ selection of science content and their encounters with students are discussed as important elements in science education research. In addition, the results indicate that students’ interests are more in line with the science presented in the media. Experiences outside school were shown to be related to different science content, which has an effect on choices for upper secondary education.
These results are related to an overall purpose in which a social theory of the media is used to critically reflect on how modernity has led to mediated mechanisms affecting the content of science and technology. Mediated experiences and processes of reception are identified as important mechanisms in the way different people relate to specific content, which creates new conditions for science education.
The results are discussed in relation to societal development and different understandings of the purpose of science education. The theoretical media approach demonstrates ways that young people’s interest in science and technology becomes involved with mediated mechanisms through popularized forms of science and through the move to what is known as ‘public understanding of science’. This situation changes an individual’s options when relating to available content and creates new conditions for science education. In this thesis, critical and reflective attention is paid to the relationship between science in school and science in society. This way of portraying the results directs the existing attention to pupil’s voice in science education in another direction. An expression of a lack of interest from an individual is interpreted as if there has been a mistake in the way science is presented.