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Dispelling the stereotypical myths of a scientist through an integrated literature approach
Paper presented at the International Science Education Conference, Singapore, 24-26 November 2009
It has been seen that few young people are interested in Science. In fact, very few actually pursue science as a career and from this pool; boys are usually more likely to take the science route as compared to girls (Lee, 1998). In addition, comments about Scientists and the nature of their work show narrow-minded perceptions. In a survey commissioned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it has been found that college and high school students share a common preconceived stereotype of scientists. The typical stereotype is mostly a queer, eccentric male (with “mad scientists” looks and “Einstein hairdos”) wearing a white coat. Consequently, students having negative images of scientists can discourage them from pursuing careers in the sciences (Gardner, 1986; Mason, 1986). Hence, an authentic and engaging worldview of scientists is critical for motivating students‟ interests toward pursuing careers in science, mathematics, and engineering where there is a critical shortage of trained professionals (Jones and Bangert, 2006). Over the last 10 years, numerous articles on strategies that can be used to help dispel the various misconceptions that children in particular have about Scientists have been published. These include highlighting the achievements of women in Science with special mention of the various female Nobel Prize winners (Hoh and Boo, 2003), Scientists-Student partnerships (Flick, 1990; Kesselheim, 1998) and the use of literature (Melber, 2003). In particular, the use of literature about Scientists for children seems to be a rather unique way to introduce Science to children (Melber, 2003).
In this paper, the “Draw a Scientist-Checklist (DAST-C)” (Chambers, 1983) was used to elicit children‟s perceptions of Scientists. A literature programme was then used as an intervention to help dispel the various myths of Scientists. These literature sources included autobiographies, information texts and Internet websites.
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