The effect of a contextual approach to chemistry instruction on students' attitudes, confidence, and achievement in science

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


The goal of this project was to determine if students' attitudes about chemistry, confidence in chemistry, and performance in chemistry increased as a result of being taught with a contextual approach to the subject. A contextual approach to teaching means that a political, environmental, or social issue is presented to the students first and, any science content needed to better understand the issue is taught on a need-to-know basis. During this investigation, 36 students were presented with a chemistry unit taught from a contextual point of view, from which the content to understand the context was drawn. The results of this study indicated that, for the most part, student attitudes, confidence, and performance in chemistry slightly decreased, with the exception of students' attitudes about the relevancy of chemistry in their lives, which increased. Several reasons may be the cause of the decline, including not linking content activities to the context often enough, exhaustion from the unit being twice as long as other units, and overall student performance decline across subject areas during the time of the treatment period. When teaching with a contextual approach in the future, I will shorten the units and create more student-centered learning opportunities that directly link back to the context.




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