Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Wall Moroz

Fourth Advisor

High school students -- Western Australia -- Attitudes, Social sciences -- Study and teaching -- Western Australia

Abstract

There is a dearth of research on student attitudes toward social studies, especially in Western Australian secondary schools. The purpose of this case study was twofold. Firstly it was to determine the attitudes of lower secondary school students toward social studies at one Independent high school in the Perth metropolitan area. Secondly, it was to investigate the factors that influence student attitudes toward social studies. The case study school was selected as a convenience sample. A total of 203 students from Years 8, 9, and 10 completed a questionnaire designed to determine attitudes toward social studies and to identify factors that contribute to student attitudes. There were 79 Year 8 students, 60 Year 9 students and 63 Year 10 students who took part in the case study. Over the three lower secondary year levels there were 100 female students and 103 male students. Nine students from each year level also participated in the focus group interviews. Three focus group interviews, one for each year level, were conducted. The quantitative data was collected through the questionnaire, and the focus group interviews provided the qualitative data. The quantitative data was collected through a modified version of Student Attitudes Toward Social Studies, an existing questionnaire designed, tested and validated by Moroz (1996). The modified questionnaire was Secondary Student Attitudes Toward Social Studies (SSATSS). The data provided information about student attitudes toward social studies through descriptive and inferential statistical analysis of the students' responses to the items on the questionnaire. Two open-ended questions were included in SSATSS and in conjunction with the focus group interviews for each year level, qualitative data was collected to validate the results of the quantitative data and to explain the reasons for student attitudes toward social studies. The variables considered in determining student attitudes toward social studies were student perceptions of the classroom teaming environment and activities, student's own ability, the social studies teacher and parental support. All of these variables were considered in terms of student gender and year level. Learning activities in social studies lessons were also considered as factors that contribute to student attitudes toward social studies. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were used in the data collection. The results of this case study show that social studies has a low status at the school and the subject was not well liked by the students; social studies ranked last from fourteen school subjects. The factors that contribute to the low status and students' dislike for social studies centre on the teaching/teaming methods most commonly used in social studies lessons. The most common teaching/teaming methods depended heavily on text book and seat work, and students were given few opportunities to actively participate in their learning. Students claimed social studies was 'boring', not because of the content, but because of the way the subject was taught. Year 8 students were positive toward social studies, but Year 10 students were not. The status of social studies declined by 15.9% between the two years. Although male and female students preferred different subjects, there was no significant difference in their liking of social studies.

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