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Developing a survey instrument to evaluate tertiary chemistry students' attitudes and learning experiences

New Zealand tertiary institutions, like others worldwide, have experienced a decline in science and chemistry enrolments in recent times as students seek other career paths that they perceive to be more lucrative. In a previous article we described a qualitative study of the learning experiences of students enrolled in a first year chemistry course at a New Zealand tertiary institution. Researchers in education and science education have two choices of methodology, a qualitative or a quantitative approach, and each possesses advantages and disadvantages. Qualitative studies typically use resource intensive data gathering techniques such as interviews. These studies are useful in that they allow researchers to study issues of interest in great depth and, for example, allow investigators to probe for underlying reasons about students' views for abstract scientific concepts. However, because qualitative studies are more labour intensive, they typically involve only small numbers of participants, which in the minds of many researchers and teachers results in a lack of generalisability. In other words, it is not necessarily clear what implications the findings hold in other contexts. In contrast, quantitative studies involve larger numbers of participants. By the judicious use of statistical analysis, researchers can investigate changes and trends, and extrapolate their findings to a large (or target) population. However, whilst the results from quantitative studies are more generalisable, they are often less detailed. Hence researchers are confronted with a trade-off situation in which they must choose between the depth of understanding provided from qualitative studies, versus the generalisability of a quantitative approach: because of this dilemma, increasingly researchers employ a mixed methodology approach. In this paper we describe a quantitative study that complements previous qualitative work. We report on the development of a questionnaire that investigates tertiary level learning experiences of chemistry students, along with their attitude toward chemistry and chemistry self-efficacy.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Coll, R.K., Dalgety, J. Jones, A. & Salter, D. (2001). Developing a survey instrument to evaluate tertiary chemistry students' attitudes and learning experiences. Chemistry in New Zealand, 65(3), 42-47.
New Zealand Institute of Chemistry
© 2001 New Zealand Institute Chemistry. Used with permission.