An evaluation of community college student perceptions of the science laboratory and attitudes towards science in an introductory biology course
The science laboratory is an integral component of science education. However, the academic value of student participation in the laboratory is not clearly understood. One way to discern student perceptions of the science laboratory is by exploring their views of the classroom environment. The classroom environment is one determinant that can directly influence student learning and affective outcomes. Therefore, this study sought to examine community college students' perceptions of the laboratory classroom environment and their attitudes toward science. Quantitative methods using two survey instruments, the Science Laboratory Environment Instrument (SLEI) and the Test of Science Related Attitudes (TORSA) were administered to measure laboratory perceptions and attitudes, respectively. A determination of differences among males and females as well as three academic streams were examined. Findings indicated that overall community college students had positive views of the laboratory environment regardless of gender of academic major. However, the results indicated that the opportunity to pursue open-ended activities in the laboratory was not prevalent. Additionally, females viewed the laboratory material environment more favorably than their male classmates did. Students' attitudes toward science ranged from favorable to undecided and no significant gender differences were present. However, there were significantly statistical differences between the attitudes of nonscience majors compared to both allied health and STEM majors. Nonscience majors had less positive attitudes toward scientific inquiry, adoption of scientific attitudes, and enjoyment of science lessons. Results also indicated that collectively, students' experiences in the laboratory were positive predicators of their attitudes toward science. However, no laboratory environment scale was a significant independent predictor of student attitudes. .A students' academic streams was the only significant independent predictor of attitudes toward science, albeit negatively. The results from this study indicated that there is a need to increase the opportunity for inquiry in the science laboratory. The data also suggest that although all academic streams may have similar views of the laboratory experiences, more needs to be implemented to improve the scientific attitudes of nonscience majors enrolled in a course for science majors.