Attitudinal studies in S&T and D&T

Surveys of ideas about science, design and technology

Using posters to elicit students’ ideas about science and technology

Students from standards V to IX (ages 10 to 15 years), coming from 30 different schools from in and around Mumbai city participated in a poster making contest on of the themes, Images of Science and Images of Technology, during the National Science Day celebrations at the Centre. Different aspects of students’ drawings as well as their ideas of science and technology were analysed using a large variety of categories developed for the purpose and have been published.


Mehrotra, S., Khunyakari, R., Chunawala, S., & Natarajan, C. (2003). Using posters to understand students’ ideas about science and technology. Technical Report No. 1(02-03). Mumbai: HBCSE.

Mehrotra, S., Khunyakari, R., Chunawala, S., & Natarajan, C. (2003). Using posters to understand upper primary and secondary school students’ ideas about science and technology. Background papers to the International Symposium on social production of knowledge through diversity of expressive modes, multiple literacies and bi (multi) lingual relationships (pp. 1-19), Pune, March 5-7, 2003.

Students’ ideas about Science and Scientists, (SAS, 1995-1998)

This study was an international collaborative effort coordinated by Prof. Svein Sjoberg of Norway, Dr. Jayashree Mehta of India and Jane Mulemwa of Uganda, sponsored by NORAD, the Norwegian Agency for Development. It attempted to shed light on the perception of science and scientists held by 13 year old school students and addressed issues related to gender and science education in cultures.

Data collection relied on a questionnaire prepared by the organizers. Several tasks were included in this questionnaire, involving objective responses, making drawings and writing short notes. The questionnaire, in English and in Marathi (after translation) was administered to 444 students of class VIII (age 13 years) from eight schools of Mumbai (195 female students and 248 male students). Our results indicated that on the whole, students had a positive image of scientists. Physicists were considered to be more imaginative, full of ideas as compared to the biologists who were considered to be more caring. Greater percentage of male students viewed science as a source of power and destruction, and to be pursued by males only. The last point was further validated in students’ drawings. The sex of the scientist drawn by the student was most often male (86.5%). Both boys and girls pictured the scientist to be male. Female scientists were drawn rarely and when they were drawn, it was mainly by English medium girls. Very few students drew children as scientists, however the students perceived the scientist to be young to middling in age rather than old. It is interesting that Indian students went contrary to the Western stereotypical drawings with respect to age but are in fact correct about the age of the average scientists. Very few students drew the scientist as a bearded figure wearing glasses and a lab-coat. One possible reason is that the media rarely depicts scientists and therefore students have very little exposure to these stereotypes.

The writings of students lend further support to the positive image held by them of scientists, with adjectives, such as, hard-working, intelligent, imaginative and helpful being used to describe them. Rarely, a negative or even a mixed view of science and scientists was given. Science was largely viewed to be essential for the progress of the country. In connection with what the students would like to work on in future, the areas highlighted were, medicine and health, biology, technology, chemistry and astronomy. Education, social science, and mathematics were areas which were mentioned least often.

The number of activities which boys reported as having participated in outside school were much more (40) than the number of activities reported by girls (5). But it is not the number of activities alone that is important but also the kind of activities which showed a gender difference. All the five activities which girls reported as having done were connected to the home (making bread, butter or yoghurt, sewing, weaving and knitting). The activities dominated by boys had a larger range. They were related to use of tools and equipment (saw, screw driver, etc.) making something (toys, kite, etc.) nature and environment (caring for an animal, etc.). Most of the activities in the list presented to the students had some relevance to science and could possibly serve as concrete examples of what is to be taught or as starting points for school science. Thus, knowingly or unknowingly, it would appear that science builds on the experience that boys have acquired to a greater extent than girls do.

With relation to gender it was clear that both boys and girls perceive scientists as male. In their future choices more girls preferred biology while boys preferred technology and astronomy. The study when set in a global cross-cultural context has important implications for science education.


Chunawala, S., & Ladage, S. (1998). Students’ Ideas about Science and Scientists, Technical Report No. 38, HBCSE, 1998.

For more information on the international project, visit

Attitudes towards mathematics (1992-1995)

This study had the objective of uncovering the attitudes of students to mathematics and to other subjects. A set of questionnaires aimed at learning the same were developed. These were pretested for language difficulties and administered to students (411 students, from 6 schools studying in VII standard). Teachers were also asked to fill these questionnaires as a typical student would (112 teachers from 22 schools).

The scale to measure attitudes towards mathematics had categories such as, interest in the subject, ease /difficulty of the subject, usefulness, freedom permitted by the subject and self-concept of students in relation to the subject. Items of the scale were screened by HBCSE members and mathematics teachers. An open-ended (projective) test aimed at measuring attitudes to mathematics was also conducted.

No gender differences in upper primary students’ attitudes to various school subjects were found. There were no gender differences among teachers, that is, both male and female teachers had similar perceptions about students. Teachers were aware of students’ attitudes towards various subjects. Besides, teachers also viewed male and female students as having no differences in attitudes to subjects. These findings pointed towards an important aspect, that is, why are there changes reported in attitudes at higher levels of education? This question requires greater and in-depth work with teachers and students at different levels of schooling.


Chunawala, S. and H.C. Pradhan; A study of students’ attitudes to school subjects: A preliminary report. Journal of Education and Social Change, Vol. VII, No 2,3, pg 50-62, July-Sept., Oct-Dec., 1993