Department of Physics "E. Pancini", University Federico II, Naples
All Sessions by Italo Testa
Day 1 - Wed 10th May
Exploring students’ attitudes towards astronomy along secondary school grade levels
11:15 - 11:30
Co-author: Silvia Galano
In this paper, we present the results of a cross-sectional study about Italian secondary school students’ attitudes towards astronomy. About 2,500 students were involved in the study. We initially designed a 26-item survey building on literature. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were used to determine factors underlying the instrument, resulting in a three-dimension structure: 1) interest in astronomy (4 items); 2) intention to become a professional astronomer (4 items); 3) perceived relevance of astronomy for society (5 items). Then, we used the final 13 retained items as indicator variables to perform a latent class analysis on the whole sample. Statistical indices supported a 6-class model. Only a small fraction of students (N = 184, 7.4%) have high interest in astronomy, a moderate intention to become a professional in astronomy and an average positive perception of astronomy for society. A slightly bigger class (N= 236, 9.5%) had an overall negative attitude towards astronomy. The remaining four classes have mixed attitudes towards astronomy, with a very low interest in pursuing a career as professional as common trait. The emerging classes are significantly associated with gender (p < .05) and grade level (p < .001). In particular, the percentage of students interested and attracted by an astronomy career steadily decreases from 9th to 13th grade, while the percentage of uninterested and unattracted students increases. Overall, our study calls for major curriculum reforms in order to improve students’ attitudes towards astronomy.