Characterizing the learning styles and testing the science-related attitudes of African American middle school students: implications for the underrepresentation of African Americans in the sciences.

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Perine, Donald
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Middle Tennessee State University
African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and women are underrepresented among the population of scientists and science teachers in the United States. Specifically, the shortage of African Americans teaching math and science at all levels of the educational process and going into the many science-related fields is manifested throughout the entire educational and career structure of our society. This shortage exists when compared to the total population of African Americans in this country, the population of African American students, and to society's demand for more math and science teachers and professionals of all races.
One suggestion to address this problem is to update curricular and instructional programs to accommodate the learning styles of African Americans from elementary to graduate school. There is little in the published literature to help us understand the learning styles of African American middle school students and how they compare to African American adults who pursue science careers. There is also little published data to help inform us about the relationship between learning styles of African American middle school students and their attitudes toward science.
The author used a learning styles inventory instrument to identify the learning style preferences of the African American students and adults. The preferences identified describe how African American students and African American adult science professionals prefer to function, learn, concentrate, and perform in their educational and work activities in the areas of: (a) immediate environment, (b) emotionality, (c) sociological needs, and (d) physical needs. The learning style preferences for the students and adults were not significantly different in key areas of preference.
A Test of Science-Related Attitudes (TOSRA) was used to measure seven distinct science-related attitudes of the middle school students. A comparison of the profile of the mean scores for the students in this study to a national norm, comprised of students of all races, showed no significant differences. The attitudes that African American middle school students have toward science are influenced by science professionals (role models), their parents, and their teachers. This correlates directly with the high preference for Parent Motivated and Teacher Motivated learning style preferences.
Major Professor: Patricia M. Patterson.