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

Abstract

This study identifies the status of social studies in one metropolitan Government secondary school in Western Australia. This was achieved by investigating the attitudes of Year 9 students, at the case study school, toward the subject and by identifying the factors responsible for influencing these attitudes. A focus of the study was to explore the impact of student gender on attitudes toward the learning area. The underlying theoretical basis for the study contends that attitude toward social studies is a function of the interrelationship of student, teacher and learning environment variables. The empirical database for the study was quasi-experimental in nature employing both quantitative and qualitative techniques. The dependent variable of student attitude was measured against nine key issues (constructs) in social studies (independent variables): attitudes to school, attitudes to social studies, usefulness of social studies, perceived teacher attitudes to social studies, perceived teacher attitudes to students, classroom environment, classroom management, perception of own ability and parental support for social studies. The quantitative component of the study, one questionnaire - Secondary Students' Attitudes Toward Social Studies (SSATSS) - was constructed. This survey involved a sample of 144 Year 9 students. The questionnaire was analysed using Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences Version 8.0 (SPSS 8.0). Tests for means, standard deviations, alpha coefficients, Wilkes' Lambda GLM and 'Oneway' ANOVA were used to analyse and interpret the data. The qualitative component of the study involved a focus group discussion of twelve randomly selected students. It sought to identify the factors influencing student attitudes to social studies through four predetermined questions. Students were to respond verbally while key points raised were memoed and then later coded. The findings from the study suggest that social studies has a low status among Year 9 students at the case study school. The research suggests that the reasons for this poor image and decline in its status across the year levels may be attributed to the teacher-centred, didactic pedagogy and uninteresting content. Students perceived that teachers enjoyed teaching the subject, but themselves rated it twelfth in a list of fourteen subjects. There were significant differences in attitude toward social studies based on student gender. Female students were happier about coming to school, found subjects more interesting, liked school, liked the teachers and thought the school rules were good. Year 9 females had a more positive attitude towards school and social studies in all but three constructs: perceived teacher attitudes to students, classroom environment and classroom management. Males were more positive about these. Males were also more positive towards design and technology and science, while females were more positive about the language-dominated subjects further reinforcing conventional stereotypes. This case study, while providing a useful insight into what student attitudes are in Year 9 at one secondary school, it offers an informative foundation for further studies

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