DRAFT: Lit. Review, Science Modeling Attitudes

This is a rough draft of a required Literature Review (pdf) for one of my classes. The subject is near and dear to me, of course. One particular aspect? The report by Bartkowski, Xu, & Levin (2007) on the modeling of discussion v. argument. It is supposed to be proposed research which explains why it looks like it does.


modeling in science education
Logo of the Office of Science Education, part of the United States National Institutes of Health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This paper seeks to answer the following question: What effect does modeling behavior have in the reception of scientific data, especially in regards to evolution and climate change? After an examination of recent studies on the effects of modeled behavior, with such behaviors identified either as science-positive or science-negative, by both educators and parents on the displayed attitudes of students, a phenomenological methodology is proposed in order to collected data via person-to-person interviews to construct a narrative. Specifically, the research seeks to examine two current discussion points in science and national science standards, evolution and anthropologically driven global climate change. Research results are then summarized, indicating modeled behavior create expectations of science reception in students, with negative attitudes by one or both models driving down the ability of the student to meet national science standards. All aspects of the paper are done with respect to examining the phenomena in West Virginia. Discussion is limited to specific results and transferability is noted. 


            The 2015 Bayer Facts of Science Education Surveys reveals a lack of science education in the schools of the United States while a report by Pennsylvania State Survey Research Center (SRC) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reveal attitudes by science educators hindering proper science instruction. The 2015 survey reveals a consensus that more emphasis should be placed on science education, among educators (61%) and parents (40%). In regards to educators, the SRC-NCSE report reveal a lack of proper understanding on several important science standards, specifically global climate change, where 77.4% of educators report some form of refusal or inadequate teaching of this subject. In regards to attitudes of educators, 2% denied climate change exists, 15% believe it is completely natural, and 15% believe climate change is produced by both human and natural causes. In regards to evolution, 28% of educators consistently teach evolution compared to 13% who advocate for creationism. On the other hand, 60% of educators simply take no stand, which Berkman and Plutzer as playing a “far more important role in hindering scientific literacy” (Berkman & Plutzer, 2012). More locally, West Virginia has received a “D” in science preparation, noting that West Virginia “flirts with creationism” (Finn & MaGee, 2012, 191–195). In recent standards changes, West Virginia’s Board of Education is attempting to remove inferences and evidences of anthropologically driven climate change (Eyre, 2016).

While the author of this paper believes it is necessary to reform science curriculum, I also believe it is necessary to first examine the attitudes of both parents and educators and the role they play in reception of science education by students. This study will examine students, specifically in West Virginia, for transference of negative attitudes towards science and ask the question: What effect does modeling behavior have in the reception of scientific data, especially in regards to evolution and climate change?

Review of Current Literature

            Berkman and Plutzer (2012) note that within the coming decade, the number of decisions based on science to be made by the public and leaders in the United States will greatly increase. They likewise note that students are increasingly seeing science as a matter of opinion. According to a 2005 Pew Research study, a majority (57%) of the American public believed creationism (that the earth is less than 10,000 years old) should be taught in public schools as science alongside evolution. Berkman and Plutzer (2012) note that according to the report, 33% of the American public believes creation should be taught as science, ignoring evolution completely. The authors draw the reason to religious fundamentalism. The Coalition of Scientific Societies likewise notes the role Christian fundamentalism plays in the public reception of evolution and other scientific data (2008). Miller, Scott & Okamoto (2006) are able to establish a direct correlation between the religious beliefs about science with its reception in the American public. The National Academy of Sciences believes that a positive teaching “offers educators a superb opportunity to illuminate the nature of science and to differentiate science from other forms of human endeavor and understanding” (1998). Taylor, Jones, Broadwell, & Oppewal (2008) showed the need for science instruction creativity, by introducing scientists to educators to foster a new teaching method, with educators indicating that after introduction, their understanding and instruction methods had changed.

According to Scheitle (2011), undergraduates are likely to come to understand that science and religion are not necessarily at odds as they progress through coursework. But, this conflict narrative is identifiable earlier, especially in middle school where the views about science are starting to be determined (Kitts, 2009). Long notes that it is during this time educator’s attitudes, either science-positive or science-negative, begin to affect the students (2012). Further, Long notes that the inculcation of religious views against science begin to firm up in early adolescence, so much so that the worth of later attempts to improve science-positive metacognitions is questioned (Long, 2011; Winslow, Staver, & Scharman, 2011). Science-negative attitudes may emerge early and thus become ingrained not because of active enforcement by guardians, but because of a passive form of control (Long, 2011, p. 72). However, the same passive perspective manipulation may be used to produce science-positive attitudes. Mooney (2011), in examining how perspectives can be changed via science-positive attitude notes that “Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue.”

Yalacki (2010) argues that rather than looking beliefs and practices of educators, assessors should examine value and value systems, so that while Yalacki understand the role educators play in forming the attitudes of the students, countering it must begin with the value placed on science rather than particular beliefs or instruction method on any particular topic. It is this value system that must be examined in light of Losh & Nzekwe (2010) who found that future educators saw little to no value in science, which informed belief systems in as much as they saw no point in educating themselves, mirroring, somewhat, the adolescent view as identified by Kitts (2009). This view is that while middle school students saw value in scientists, expressing admiration, they saw little to no value in studying science. In one study, pre-service educators showed an unwillingness to engage in critical literacy on controversial topics (Smith & Lennon, 2011), leading the researchers to recommend various new instructional methods.

Thus far, I have attempted to establish the opinion that educators are in fact playing a part in science reception among students. What is revealed is that an identifiable portion of educators does not teach controversial topics, hold to what may be called pseudoscience, or place little to no value on science as a whole. As noted above, these methods aid in enforcing the lack of need for appreciating science among students. I will now turn to the role of parents in devaluing scientific education.

As noted above, parental control is sometimes passive, but even in this it has a purpose beyond passing down generational views and family traditions. As Stokes & Regnerus (2008) has pointed out, when parents and their children share the same religious beliefs, family discord is reduced. I therefore suggest that the value of the child, to be accepted by the parents, is greater than the value of science, especially if science is not the value of the parents or if science is counter the values of the parents.

Bartkowski, Xu, & Levin (2007) have shown that religion does have a cognitive effect on the development of children and adolescents. They note that the difference comes from the difference between discussion and argument, “The frequency of religious discussions significantly bolsters children’s cognitive development in the household setting, while arguments about religion significantly undermine it” and “Frequent parent–child discussions about religion often yield positive effects on child development, while any effects associated with family arguments about religion are deleterious for children.” Therefore, I propose that the more rigid a religious sect is, the more likely arguments are to occur, leading to a more science-negative attitude in the home.

Christian fundamentalism, specifically of the Protestant variety, has been shown to shape children and adolescent views in relation to education. Sherkat & Darnell (1999) have shown how religion places constraints on educational options. Values dictate that college preparatory curriculum is avoided, especially in the more fundamentalist (strict sectarian) households, producing students avoiding certain subjects altogether. Evans (2000) is able to establish a pattern of beliefs regarding the origin of life as a merge of “community beliefs and age-related changes.” Regnerus (2003), after a review of more recent research, has produced similar results. Unfortunately, there has been little recent research in this area, which is now necessary given not only increased issues with such things as climate change, but so too a paradigm shift in information availability which has created a different social world for adolescents (Mesch & Talmud, 2010).

Given the need for scientifically literate adults, the need for understanding how science-positive attitudes are nurtured is prevalent. The research will examine two role models in the adolescent’s life, the educator and the parent, in order to access where the most effective intervention may lie, in order that proper interventions may be developed to address science-negative attitudes.


For this study, I will need to utilize in-depth interview techniques to understand “how human beings make sense of experience and transform experience into consciousness” (Patton, 2014, p. 115) given that it is very much the phenomena of modeling attitudes I propose affecting attitudes of science reception. As I research I will conduct pointed interviews with participants, gathering needed data that will be coded using an established model. Participants will be selected based on grades and classroom performance after a short interview with the educator, where the focus questions will be two fold. First, I will want to identity likely students based on the above-mentioned guidelines. I will look at high achievers and students who make average grades, assuming a 5-letter grading scale. The sample size will seek to represent equally male and female students, students across various economic statuses, and students who stand in various religions or forms of their particular religion. Once the initial students are chosen, I will from among those create a sample where students are then selected based on their grades in other classes, so that the student who is averaging a “C” in science classes will be selected if their other classes show high achievement. Exclude will be students who identify with certain disabilities and those with established behavioral issues. Following Polkinghorne (1989), my sample size will be at least 25 of those who have approximately similar phenomenological experiences (Green & Christensen, 2006). After a sample has been secured, I will then ask the educators as to their views and instruction methods on science as a whole and then in regards specifically to evolution and global climate change.

To ensure safety and privacy, I will ask a school counselor, whom I will also inform of the methodology of this study, to be present during student interviews. Students will not be named in the study, but identified by a randomly assigned number. Parents will be informed and consent sought.

I will collect data via individual interviews, with each interview focusing on two aspects, the educator’s attitude as well as the parental. In regards to the latter, parental involvement in homework assignments will be measured as well as political and religious viewpoints, or lack thereof. This will be gathered through informational queries, such as asking specific questions regarding evolution and global climate change and the views representative of different viewpoints of those issues, such as “Evolution states the earth is four billion years old. Is this true or false in your opinion?” Keywords, such as “bible” or “young earth” or misuse of the word “theory” will be noted and catalogued. Particular care will be given to note facial reactions as well as body language in regards to specific lines of questioning. Data review will follow the outline for phenomenological interpretation established by Merriam & Associates (2002).

I note my bias against science-negative attitudes as well as my pro-religion and spirituality stance. I have attempted to write the question prompts to emit any bias by soliciting advice from the local IRB, engaging educators, religious leaders, and other counselors.

Discussion of (Possible) Outcome

After the examination was completed, a narrative was constructed. I found 63% of students who exhibited science-negative attitudes via grades had had those attitudes modeled by a parent while 35% of students reported negative modeling by educators. Only 5% of students who received negative modeling from both parents and educators were able to earn above average grades only 2 students reported they “lied to get an A,” and action their science-negative parents encouraged. This comports with previous studies conducted by Long (Long, 2011, p. 36).

Educators who exhibited science-negative attitudes did so by shrinking instruction time, removing hands on activities, and by presenting counter arguments, often times with a 3-to-1 time difference. Further, educators would note that if they did not accept current theories on evolution and/or global climate change, they would often grade students easier on particular questions. Finally, 73% of educators with science-positive attitudes would teach according to science standards but admitted to not engaging controversial statements by students in the classroom or on tests because of the political climate. This must be examined in future studies, since this study sampled students by grades prima facie. Following the suggestion of Taylor, Jones, Broadwell, & Oppewal (2008), this study supports the suggested need for continued interaction between educators and scientists to develop not only positive instructional methods, but to also help change science-negative attitudes among educators.

The outcome reveals that modeled attitudes by authority figures, especially in regards to science and major scientific theories, are transferred to students at least in West Virginia. On the issue of transferability of this study, it is recommended cautiously, given that the study was accomplished with a near strict dichotomy applied to viewpoints by the author of this report. Further, the research was conducted only in West Virginia, a largely rural, Christian, and White state. I also note that parents were not interviewed.

This research should help not only school counselors and curriculum counselors identify and prioritize values among educators, but should serve mental health counselors in understanding the role religious attitudes of authority figures in the life of developing adolescents. It is a given that mental health counselors will have adolescents in their care, directed either by parents or the courts. It would be helpful to understand the cognitive environment fostering some of the client’s development and reception to science or perceived scientific methods. Future studies should examine the perception of medical and counseling professions among adolescents in strict sectarian families.


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Berkman, M., & Plutzer, E., (2008, Fall) “The Polls—Trends: Evolution, Creationism, and the Teaching of Human Origins in Schools,” Public Opinion Quarterly 72, no. 3: 540–553

Berkman, M., & Plutzer, E., (2010) Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Berkman, M., & Plutzer, E. (2012, June). An Evolving Controversy: The Struggle to Teach Science in Science Classes. American Educator, 36(2), P12-17, 20-23, 40.

Coalition of Scientific Societies. (2008). Evolution and Its Discontents: A Role for Scientists in Science Education. The FASEB Journal, 22(1), 1–4. http://doi.org/10.1096/fj.08-0101ufm

Evans, E. M. (2000). The Emergence of Beliefs About the Origins of Species in School-Age Children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 46(2), 221–254.

Eyre, E. (2016, February 26). WV House OKs block on science standards over global warming. Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Finn, C. E., & Porter-MaGee, K. (2012). The state of state science standards. Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Green, E., & Christensen, T. M. (2006). Elementary school children’s perceptions of play therapy in school settings. International Journal of Play Therapy, 15 (1), 65–85.

Kitts, K. (2009). The Paradox of Middle and High School Students’ Attitudes Towards Science Versus Their Attitudes About Science as a Career. Journal of Geoscience Education: March 2009, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 159-164. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5408/1.3544253

Losh, S. C., & Nzekwe, B. (2010). Creatures in the Classroom: Preservice Teacher Beliefs About Fantastic Beasts, Magic, Extraterrestrials, Evolution and Creationism. Science & Education, 20(5-6), 473–489. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-010-9268-5

Long, D. (2011). Evolution and religion in American education: An ethnography. Dordrecht: Springer.

Long, D. E. (2012). The politics of teaching evolution, science education standards, and Being a creationist. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(1), 122–139. http://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20445

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Mesch, G., & Talmud, I. (2010). Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age (1 edition). London ; New York: Routledge.

Miller, J. D., Scott, E. C., Okamoto, S. (2006) Science communication. Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313, 765–766.

Mooney, C. (2011). The science of why we don’t believe science: How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link. Mother Jones. May/June.

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Scheitle, C. P. (2011). U.S. College Students’ Perception of Religion and Science: Conflict, Collaboration, or Independence? A Research Note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1), 175–186. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01558.x

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11 Replies to “DRAFT: Lit. Review, Science Modeling Attitudes”

  1. That there is “lack of science education in the schools of the United States” is almost a sick joke.

    For the past decade, starting under George W. Bush and continuing under Barack Obama, Washington has been pushing an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics under the name STEM. In elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges, the emphasis on STEM has ravaged liberal arts programs across the country.

    While a reasonable person might be inclined to ask how could this happen, the question itself reveals an ignorance of the intended purpose of education in the United States. Since the late 19th century, that purpose actually have very little to do with education.

    Instead, as developed under Frederick the Great in 18th century Prussia, the instructional methodology used in the United States is designed to teach unquestioning obedience to authority. This authoritarian emphasis offers some insights into why students typically get into more trouble for not following the rules than for not being academically proficient.

    Moreover, the United States doesn’t just come up short in science. Every few years, news media are filled with stories about America’s school children not doing as well as their foreign counterparts in reading and math.

    Yet, despite all the professed hand-wringing over the poor performance of American schools, rarely is the nature of the system even questioned. Instead, the blame is shifted to students, teachers, and parents.

    Meanwhile, as most students in America’s public, private, and parochial schools are being trained to perform like animals in a circus, the chosen are given a different level of education.

    Typically, because of parental wealth, a few students attend schools were there is an emphasis on education. This is why, despite not necessarily being brighter than anyone else, the Kennedys and the Bushes got into Harvard and Yale respectively.

    Understanding the intended purpose of America’s educational scheme goes a long way in helping to understand why efforts to reform the system fail. To change the system would undermine a comfortable status quo for those at the top of society’s pecking order. More people at the bottom would began to question the existing system of egregious wealth inequality, and corporate domination of both the economy and politics,

    A working knowledge to the American public education system nevertheless affords an appreciation for why an emphasis on nitpicky technical proficiencies of penmanship and those algebra equations no one uses in real life.

  2. Not knowing anything about the subject, I thought modeling referred to some computer modeling of data. Being thus confused, I had to google. I found this, that brought it all together.


    “Scientists “have been finding this odd effect where children will copy everything that they see an adult demonstrate to them, even if there are clear or obvious reasons why those actions would be irrelevant,” says psychologist Mark Nielsen, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “It’s something that we know that other primates don’t do.” If a chimpanzee is shown an irrelevant action, they won’t copy it…”

      1. “If a chimpanzee is shown an irrelevant action, they won’t copy it…”

        I thought that applied to us too. Although, I do remember, when I was about 7 years old back in the 50’s, jumping off the roof of my house. Trying to imitate Superman, since I had a towel wrapped around my neck. Lucky it was only a one story house. As soon as I hit the ground, I had an epiphany, and thought “That was Really stupid!” Last time I ever had a desire to jump off a roof. Lucky, no damage, except to my ego.

        1. Although we never jumped off house tops, several kids would constantly jump off the top of a neighbor’s detached garage.

          No one ever got hurt because, in addition to landing on grass, a couple of the boys’ father had been one of the original American paratroopers during World War II. The father taught his sons how to do a five-point roll. Needless to say, as kids do, his sons taught it to the rest of us!

          1. No five-point roll, but I did land on grass. I was disappointed that the towel-cape added nothing to my aerodynamics. Although, on a serious note, it was lucky my parents had no guns in the house. “Faster than a speeding bullet” might have been tested… I guarantee you, as a 7 year old kid, I knew everyplace that my parents had hid stuff from me, that they erroneously thought was unreachable, and secret. Hiding something from a 7 year old, is like trying to hide something from a monkey. And my parents never found out that I jumped off the roof. They didn’t even know that could actually get onto the roof.

          2. Speaking of firearms, the same father also taught his sons how to fire an M1 Thompson so it would sweep rather than ride.

            On a more humorous note, one of my mother’s friends said two boys living next door to her came over one day asking.to borrow a shovel. Curious, the woman asked, “Why do you need a shovel?”

            “To bury the rabbit,” one of the kids reportedly replied.

            “What happened to the rabbit?” the woman pressed.

            “It jumped off the roof,” one of the boys reportedly innocently answered.

            As I recall, the woman let the kids borrow the shovel and didn’t asked any more questions. Having raised a son, by then an Air Force pilot whom I seen buzz the neighborhood in either an T-33 or F-80 a few years earlier to say thanks to his mom, she knew how the rabbit got on the roof!

          3. No guns, but I had a BB gun (Daisy) at about age 8. Probably a mistake by my parents. Use to shoot straight up into the air, to try and hit the metal patio roof on the down side. Also, a terror for the neighbors. Shot at birds on the telephone wires. Always missed, and the BB went into the neighbor’s yard. Until one day, like magic, the BB hit the sparrow right in the chest, and dropped like a rock. I was so shocked, I cried, and had a funeral for the bird, buried him in a shoebox in the backyard, and prayed for forgiveness – (after telling my mother, and receiving a moral tongue-lashing). Last time I tried to shoot a bird with a BB gun. Although, I am not so sure what my mother thought I was doing with a BB gun, if not to shoot birds; – shoot at targets – right!) I am sure the neighbors were relieved. Although I had a BB gun as a kid, I am not so sure it is a good idea for an 8 year old. They will attempt almost anything, if an adult isn’t watching. (Either that, or I was just plain evil myself).

          4. In a tale that may have been taken from Jean Shepherd’s In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, an older cousin and one of his friends challenged me to BB gun fight sometime in the early 1950s. At the time, they were probably in their middle teens. I was about half their age.

            Now, this all occurred on several dozen acres of forest and farmland owned by our grandfather. So there was plenty of room for unsupervised youth to get into trouble. To be good sports, they offered to let me have the high ground on a relatively steep hill overlooking a natural spring.

            Little did any of us know, I was a born marksman. Until my cousin called it quits, I had his friend pinned behind the tree at the base of the hill where he started while I peppered my cousin’s posterior to BBs as attempted to crawl behind a wooden cattle gate as he attempted an ill-fated flanking maneuver.

            After that little miscalculation, they never asked for a rematch.

            It wasn’t until years later that I realized just how dangerous that little game had been. At the time, I thought it great fun!

          5. Since we are telling stories, 4th of July. Trip to Tijuana to get fire crackers a few days before (by parents). I honestly do not know what my parents were thinking. All the ten year olds in the neighborhood, on the 4th, unsupervised, playing soldier, throwing firecrackers at each other like hand grenades. Only thing that saved us, they were cheap firecrackers. If it went off in my hand, which it did a few times (crummy fuze), my hand would go numb, but nothing permanent. That did teach me to never try cherry bombs. Otherwise, I’d have a few less fingers. What does this have to do with the topic? 7 to 10 year olds watching 50’s TV, they all think they are John Wayne. Even a chimpanzee is smart enough to ignore modeling such stupid things. It is a wonder that our generation didn’t annihilate the world.

          6. Well, at least you didn’t follow in the footsteps of our neighborhood juvenile delinquent. Back when elementary schools included 7th graders, he flushed a cherry bomb down a toilet in a boys bathroom and wrecked the school’s plumbing!

            Last I heard, having moved on to grander schemes, he was a Leavenworth graduate.

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