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How does culture shape students’ perceptions of scientists? Cross-national comparative study of American and Chinese elementary students

Abstract

For decades, researchers have been convinced that one stereotypic image of scientists existed among children worldwide (Chambers, 1983; Chiang & Guo, 1996; Fung, 2002; Maoldomhnaigh & Hunt, 1988; Newton & Newton, 1992, 1998; She, 1998; Song, Pak, & Jang, 1992). This study, however, moves beyond that stereotypic image and examines students’ perceptions of scientists. The purpose of this study is to illustrate that students are influenced not only by the personal images they hold of scientists, but also by cultural impressions and the style of the science courses they experience in school. By combining a contemporary perspective and a creative method of analyzing student perceptions, a theoretical understanding of how students interpret scientists and their work was developed. Elementary school children (N=1,350) in the United States and China were enrolled in this study, and drawing exercises were utilized to provide new evidence and a fresh perspective regarding the way students perceive scientists. Based on the findings of this research, more American students included the traditional image of a science laboratory with chemicals in their pictorial depictions of scientists, while Chinese students included robots in their drawings. While students in both countries demonstrated misconceptions about scientists, this study identifies those misconceptions as significantly different, yet inherently related, to students’ individual cultures, contrary to previous studies. This study also demonstrates that a child’s environment can be influenced by their existing culture, and thus learning, or perceiving the role of scientists, can be directly influenced since each classroom is a culture of its own. Finally, this study demonstrates that a child’s sense of who can be a scientist, where scientists work, and what scientists do is influenced by cultural experiences. Today, with fewer students pursuing science careers, these findings are especially noteworthy.
... The DAST is a long-used, researched, and refined study that has been used to research students' stereotypes about science and scientists (Chambers, 1983;Finson, 2002;Mead & Métraux, 1957), to compare stereotypes and trends across genders, age, and location (Chambers, 1983;Farland-Smith, 2009;Fort & Varney, 1989;Newton & Newton, 1992) and has been used to test the efficiency of interventions meant to address those stereotypes (Farland, 2006;Flick, 1990;Steinke et al., 2007). The DAST, in its most simple form, asks students to draw a picture of a scientist (at work). ...
... This study also has a cross-national component in that it collects and compares data from five different countries: the United States, South Korea, Jamaica, Japan, and El Salvador. Similarly, the DAST has been used as an international comparison tool and is valid across countries and cultures (Farland-Smith, 2009;Fung, 2002;Narayan et al., 2009;She, 1995). In these previous cross-national studies, differences have been found in the perceptions of scientists of students in different locations. ...
... In these previous cross-national studies, differences have been found in the perceptions of scientists of students in different locations. Farland-Smith (2009), for example, found that students in the United States were more likely to draw process-related skills, teamwork, and female scientists than their Chinese counterparts. However, unlike this present study, these previous ones were comparing countries based on science stereotypes. ...
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Globally, science interest in diminishing among students, and as a result the science career field has begun to suffer from a lack of science career aspirations. The issue is especially relevant in developed countries, such as the United States, Japan, and South Korea, because of their policies and efforts to promote science and science education with students in their country. This study uses the circumscription and compromise (C&C) theory of career development to ascertain what factors are contributing to the lack of science career aspirations. Data were sourced from a cross- national, K- 12, expanded Draw- a- Scientist Test that was collected as part of a larger study on students’ science perceptions. A binary logistic regression was used to determine what factors, if any, were significant predictors of science circumscription in each of the four C&C stages. The factors tested were age grouping (6– 8, 9– 13, and 14– 19), location (the United States, South Korea, Jamaica, Japan, and El Salvador), and gender. Results found that age was a significant predictor in all four stages, whereas gender was only significant in two. Significant variation between countries only occurred in stage 1 and stage 3.
... Another frequently used term found in the reviewed DAST studies was minority. Farland-Smith (2006, 2009b below are the first examples, Science and engineering indicators report that while in some years, there was a slight increase in the number of minority science and engineering majors, overall numbers Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved. ...
... If the person in the drawing was difficult to determine or was a stick figure; a historical figure; or was not a scientist, teacher, or student, it was removed from the analysis (p. 29). (Farland-Smith 2009b) The modified DAST was developed by the researcher and the directions were the result of many informal pilot studies in the researcher's own classroom. The researcher observed variations of these three categories while collecting hundreds of drawings. ...
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The focus of this study was to examine peer-reviewed ‘draw-a-scientist’ test (DAST) research studies conducted primarily in the USA. In a similar review of science education research into the ‘nature of science views’, it was found that race played a prominent role in that research agenda and therefore may be impacting DAST research as well. Using critical race theory (CRT) as a framework, 28 published draw-a-scientist test (DAST) studies spanning from 1976 to 2018 were selected and reviewed. This study is unique in the fact that it is the only critique of the instrument in which race was the focus. Results suggest that race and language have played a significant role in DAST research to date, as Black, Latinx, Native American and other people of color were found to be disproportionally excluded as participants. Implications of excluding these individuals are explored, and suggestions for making DAST research more equitable are discussed.
... From as early as the 1950s, researchers examining students' perceptions of scientists have revealed that students not only viewed scientists as extremely intelligent and valuable contributors to society but also as social outsiders; students had little desire to become one (Mead and Métraux, 1957). This perception continues today (Miller et al., 2018) and is found in both the United States and in other developed countries (Farland-Smith, 2009;Narayan et al., 2013;She, 1995). Exploration of students' nascent science interests, illuminated by (drawn and described) perceptions such as the DAST, may suggest influences in their science career decisions and aspirations (Gottfredson, 1981(Gottfredson, , 2005Speering and Rennie, 1996). ...
... This aligns with the previous research that reported students perceived scientists as extremely intelligent, but social outsiders that are not associated with largely helping professions that are preferred by girls and women (Sjøberg, 2002). From these illuminating factors drawn or described within DASTs, female students (early on) held little desire to become a scientist (Farland-Smith, 2009;Mead and Métraux, 1957;Miller et al., 2018;Narayan et al., 2013); this study not only affirms this known perception but also why it occurs as students consider their future careers as it relates to science from primary to secondary grades. ...
... Monastics appreciated learning about Mendel, the 19th century monastic-scientist. Individual conceptions of who can be a scientist influences engagement (Smith and Erb 1986;Bettinger and Long 2005;Farland-Smith, 2009), positioning dialogue-based learning as an inclusive pedagogy. ...
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Dialogue-based learning is an inclusive pedagogy that leverages epistemological pluralism in the classroom to enhance cross-cultural education, encourage critical thinking across modes of inquiry, and promote novel contributions in applied ethics. The framework emerged from the Buddhism-science dialogue and our experiences teaching science courses for Tibetan Buddhists in India through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. Buddhism and science are two modes of inquiry that emphasize critical inquiry and empiricism, yet navigating complementarities and points of friction is challenging. Our proposed framework aims to raise awareness of onto-epistemological assumptions to convert them from obstacles into assets in dialogue. In drawing attention to epistemological orientations, our framework demonstrates that receptivity to other ways of knowing fosters clarity in one’s own views while creating space for new and enriching perspectives. In this article, we contextualize the Buddhism-science dialogue, explore the development of our dialogue-based learning framework, and demonstrate its application to a novel exchange about the COVID-19 pandemic. Broader aims of the framework include increasing scientific literacy and advancing transdisciplinary research.
... Retomar este elemento (social) a la práctica educativa real contribuiría a fomentar una visión transdisciplinar de la ciencia al abordar los contenidos desde diferentes posturas y no solo desde las mismas ciencias naturales. Investigaciones previas sobre las concepciones de estudiantes sobre la ciencia señalan que se presenta la imagen de una ciencia hegemónica que condiciona la actividad científica y sus implicaciones (Doğrua, Doğanb y Bilenc, 2016;Farland, 2009;Peer y Atputhasamy, 2005; Toma, Greca y Orozco, 2018) que se construye por influencia del contexto sociocultural, medios de comunicación y escuela. Por otra parte, el estudio de Rojas, Vargas y Obando (2017) muestra una imagen más amplia e incluyente pero que sigue invisibilizando a las ciencias sociales y humanas en sus representaciones. ...
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... Although the stereotype of the scientist tends to resort to different cultures , cultural influences cannot be ignored (Farland-Smith, 2009;McCann & Marek, 2016). For example, Taiwanese children tend to draw more female scientists and more scientists in outdoor settings (She, 1998), and the same pattern has been found in Navajo students compared to other American population groups (Monhardt, 2003). ...
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