Students beliefs about the nature of science, attitudes to studying, and academic performance

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Provost, S, Martin, F & Peacock, A 2012, 'Students beliefs about the nature of science, attitudes to studying, and academic performance', in Aiming for excellence in STEM learning and teaching: proceedings of the Higher Education Academy's First Annual Learning and Teaching STEM Conference, London, 12-13 April, Imperial College and the Royal Geographical Society, , London. ISBN: 9781907207457

Peer Reviewed



Graduate attributes for psychology include a capacity to understand and to behave in a manner consistent with the scientist-practitioner model. The research described here is intended to lead to the development of an instrument that will allow educators to track student understanding of the nature of science and to react through their teaching to this understanding. The conceptual bases of scientific enquiry scale (CBSES) incorporates items that assess students’ beliefs around a number of core conceptual issues, such as determinism, dualism, and constructivism. Students at the University of Tasmania (N=266) enrolled in a first-year psychology unit completed a survey containing the CBSES and items relating to their attitudes to study. Factor analysis of the CBSES revealed three orientations, described as spiritual, empirical and practical, that influenced responding. These orientations, particularly the practical orientation, were predictive of academic performance in the unit, and were also correlated with some attitudes towards study that are relevant to STEM. They do not, however, reflect the a priori expectations about conceptual bases of science that were “built in” to the design of the instrument. The CBSES holds some promise as a vehicle with which changes in student attitudes to conceptual understanding relevant to STEM disciplines may be assessed, as well as further examination of the understanding of science held by individuals with more extensive experience of education in STEM at postgraduate and higher levels.

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