Motivated to Learn Science

Motivation is recognized as an important factor in education. With motivation, a child does not study simply because of a test or any reward. A child studies because of an intrinsic yearning to learn. With motivation, it is then expected that learning continues even outside the classroom and beyond required activities. A lot of things can be learned outside school. After all, the world is one big classroom and with the internet, an immense library is now at our fingertips. 

Thus, with regard to science education, it is important to ask whether the young is motivated to learn science? Paul Wright wrote in Edinburgh News' "Do the maths: we need our scientists":
"...If life was a movie, science would describe it as nothing but a strip of celluloid coated in chemical that light has etched more strongly in some places than others. It would point out that nothing really moves in the movies. It's all a trick, a combination of shutter speeds and the brain's finite image-retention time.

It would deny the existence of a producer and claim the film just sort of threw itself together by chance. Science would also somehow explain away how a good film moves, inspires or amuses us, because its methodology is too coarse to deal with these subtle qualities.

No, science isn't sexy and shouldn't be sold as such, because in the end this will only sow the seeds of disappointment. However, it is worthy and necessary, and in future scientific posts could become very well paid...."
Science is not "sexy" so it may not be intrinsically attractive but science apparently is important to society. Thus, it is still important to ask first whether students are not really motivated to learn science. At first, this question may seem easy to answer, but to measure this within a society requires a good methodology. It is not just a simple survey where one asks a child whether he or she has continuing motivation in science although this may actually yield the same result.

Researchers from Israel have devised a survey that apparently measures continuing motivation (CM). Their work published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching uses the following definition of CM: "CM may be defined as “(1) a return to a task (or task area) at a subsequent time, (2) in similar or varying circumstances, (3) without visible external pressure to do so, (4) and when other behavior alternatives are available.

The survey makes use of the following questions:

Copied from Fortus, D. and Vedder-Weiss, D. (2014), Measuring students' continuing motivation for science learning. J. Res. Sci. Teach., 51: 497–522. doi: 10.1002/tea.21136

The items above are then placed on a scale that helps convert responses into a continuing motivation for science scale:

5th grade to 8th grade students participated in the survey. Not all the items turn out to be useful. Item no. 2, (building or taking apart an electrical appliance) for instance, is not expected to be prevalent at all among children. Almost 3,000 students participated in this survey and the results match what most in society already knew. The average CM for all students (except for 5th grade students in traditional schools) is in the negative range. CM also is lower for girls than for boys. And in traditional schools, CM goes down as a child goes from 5th grade to 8th grade. Science must not really be sexy....