New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

How Motivated are Irish Secondary Students to Study Science?

Beulah McManus, University of Limerick (Ireland)

Peter Childs, University of Limerick (Ireland)


For decades schools have been repeatedly faulted by would-be reformers for their failure to motivate and interest students [1]. School remains “detached from the real world [and] distant from the rest of students’ lives”[2]. More specifically, it has been found in many countries throughout the world that there are problems in creating a climate where young people feel enthusiastic about their experiences in school science lessons [3]. In fact, one of the greatest challenges for teachers, Theobald [4] asserts, remains stimulating students’ motivation to learn.


Evidence shows that students’ interest in and motivation to study science declines dramatically in the early years of secondary school [5].This loss of motivation in science has inspired a research study being carried out in Ireland. This study is investigating where and why students experience this lack of motivation in science in school. An initial baseline investigation was carried out into lower secondary students’ motivation to study science in school. A Teacher Questionnaire was developed, piloted and distributed to 100 schools from a random stratified sample of secondary schools. 3 Teacher Questionnaires were sent to each school (N=300). A Student Questionnaire for lower secondary students (ages 12-15) was also developed, piloted and distributed to 11 of the original sample of schools, who showed interest in allowing their students to partake in the study. 50 Teacher Questionnaires were returned from 21 schools (16.7%), and a total of 1427 Student Questionnaires were completed from 10 of the 11 interested schools (N=2330). The aim of the Teacher Questionnaire was to investigate the science teachers’ perceptions of students’ levels of motivation in science and factors that may affect this. The Student Questionnaire sought to gather data on students’ motives for studying science and whether or not their science instruction affected their levels of motivation. Details of the findings of this investigation will be outlined in the conference presentation.


[1]Lepper, M. R., Sethi, S., Dialdin, D and Drake, M. (1997) ‘Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: A developmental perspective’, Developmental Psychopathology: Perspectives on Adjustment, Risk and Disorder, 23-50.

[2]Slade, M and Trent, F. H. (2000) ‘What are boys saying: An examination of the views of boys about declining rates of achievement and retention’, International Educational Journal, 1, 201-229.

[3]Bennett, J. (2010) ‘Making a difference: factors that affect young people's interest and participation in science’, paper presented at the 10th European Conference on Research In Chemistry Education, Krakow, 4-8 July 2010.

[4]Theobald, M. A. (2006) Increasing Student Motivation: Strategies for Middle and High School Teachers, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

[5]Osborne, J. Simon, S. and Collins, S. (2003) ‘Attitudes towards science: A review of the literature and its implications’, International Journal of Science Education, 25, 1049-1079.

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