New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

The Influence of Age, Gender and Subject Choice on Logical and Lateral Thinking Skills in Science Students at Secondary Level

Julie Anne Cassar, De La Salle College (Malta)

Martin Musumeci, University of Malta (Malta)


One of the primary goals in education is the development of a student's cognitive structure on acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought processes, experiences and the senses. The mind’s ‘handling system’ imposes a number of imperfections and lateral thinking, together with logical thinking, is one way to compensate for some disadvantages. Children must not passively receive content knowledge but engage as active learners in thinking independently by combining logic with creativity and intuition (Phillips, 2011).

A research study was carried out, aiming to provide a better insight into the development of thinking skills in Science students in Maltese secondary schools, and to outline – in particular – how the concept of lateral thinking and logical thinking skills may be used to enhance creative and analytical thinking in the classroom.

The study was conducted in two Church schools of different gender involving a total of 98 students (half attending a girls’ school, and the rest a boys’ school). Schools of a similar level, with a spectrum of different learning abilities, were chosen. Two different age groups were considered: Form II (c. 12 year old) students, exposed to the same level of Integrated Science, and two Form IV (c. 14 year old) classes with different subject choices. The latter were a class with the three Science subjects (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and another class with only one (compulsory) Science subject. Some researchers claim that certain subjects require more problem solving skills than others, thus inducing better general thinking skills (Smith, 1981).

To measure the levels of creative thinking and logical ability, students were presented with a test including creative and analytical questions. The test consisted of 19 questions, divided in five categories. The participants’ responses, from both gender schools, were analysed in order to compare and investigate any patterns with respect to age, gender and subject choice. The study revealed that students studying the three Science subjects, and particularly boys, tend to think more outside the box with respect to their peers.


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