GSERES Collaborative Proposal: How parents and their elementary school-age children solve science problems together: The role of gender and ethnicity

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will investigate the role of gender and ethnicity in how parents (mothers and fathers) solve science problems with their young daughters and sons. Gender differences in science interest show up by middle school (Farenga& Joyce, 1999; Jones, Howe & Rua, 2000; Britner & Pajares, 2006), but few studies have examined these differences with elementary students. Several researchers have suggested that more research focus on gender effects on science interest, problem solving and participation in the early elementary grades (Andre, Whigham, Hendrickson,& Chambers, 1999; Baram- Tsabari& Yarden, 2008; Patrick, Mantzicopoulus, & Samarapungavan, 2009). Hispanic students still lag behind White students on science achievement on standardized tests, although this gap is narrowing (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). One reason cited by Hispanic families is that schools are not adequately preparing foreign-born or ELL students for high school, as compared to other populations (Gasbarra& Johson, 2008). Student interest and self-efficacy in science increases when families from different cultures are engaged through school events and projects (Bouillion and Gomez, 2001; Lee and Luykx, 2005; McCollough, C., 2011). However, few studies examine the influence of parents, and the combined effects of gender and ethnicity on science problem solving and interest. To this end, our research questions are: (1) What are parents roles in solving science problems with their early elementary school-age children? Do they vary as a function of parent gender, child gender and/or ethnicity? (2) What are early elementary school-age childrens approaches to solving science problems with their parents? Do they vary as a function of child gender, parent gender and/or ethnicity? (3) Does the discipline of the science problems that parents and their early elementary school-age children prefer vary as a function of parent gender, child gender and/or ethnicity? We will investigate our research questions within the framework of Vygotskys (1978) and Rogoffs (1990, 1995) sociocultural theories, Bronfenbrenners (1995, 2004) ecological systems theory and Bems gender schema theory (1981). Our hypotheses are that parent gender, child gender, and ethnicity affect science attitudes, problem-solving approaches (as well as parental help and encouragement) and the discipline of science problem that they prefer. One hundred and fifty 4th grade boys and girls and their parents (with a balance of Hispanic and non-Hispanic families) will solve six life and physical science problems together. Qualitative data (from parent-child problem-solving tasks and a child attitude interview) and quantitative data (from parent-child problem-solving tasks, a child science assessment, and a parental questionnaire) will be collected and analyzed using content analysis and inferential statistics.
Effective start/end date1/1/136/30/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $250,687.00

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