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M.A. Manassero Mas1, A. Vázquez Alonso1, A. Bennàssar-Roig1, A. García-Carmona2

1University of the Balearic Island (SPAIN)
2University of Seville (SPAIN)
Science education scholars consider the nature of science and technology (NoS&T) issues as an unavoidable and innovative aim of school science curricula for achieving an authentic scientific and technological literacy for all. This communication diagnoses the epistemological thinking of a wide sample of students by means of the Questionnaire of Opinions on Science, Technology and Society (Spanish acronym COCTS), applying a new powerful quantitative methodology that allows inferential statistics. The analysis compares girls and boys, which usually display in the literature a pattern of deep differences, and favourable to boys, in a wide array of science related variables, especially those of attitudinal type.
A representative sample of students (787) from science and arts background (19 year old mean), who are finishing high-school or beginning college, answered 15 COCTS items addressing the following NoS&T dimensions: definitions of science and technology (S&T), epistemology, influences of society in S&T, influence of S&T in society, education in S&T and internal sociology of S&T. Each item stem presents a specific NoS&T issue within a non-technical simple perspective. A number of sentences, each labelled A, B, C…, follow the stem; each sentence states a reason that develops a particular position (belief or attitude) on the stem issue. The participants score to their degree of agreement to each sentence on a 9-point scale (1, total disagreement; 9, total agreement). The direct scores are translated into homogeneous invariant attitudinal indexes (-1, +1) through a scaling method described elsewhere (Manassero, Vázquez & Acevedo, 2006), which allows transformation and inference statistics. All in all, approximately 158 attitudinal index variables of three types are explored: sentence index (one for each sentence), category indexes (three per item), and item indexes (one per item).The gender comparisons controls the science-arts background of students, presenting separately the results for each group.
The results identify the strengths and weaknesses of students’ attitudes and beliefs on the NoS&T issues in each item, from their quantitative indexes. These beliefs are previous ideas of students’ epistemological thinking on the NoS&T issues, a very important key to improve students learning.
The most remarkable findings about gender differences show that girls and boys are not very different, as the significant differences between them are quite scarce along the wide range of explored variables. Furthermore, two main items concentrate the significant differences across science and art students: life welfare and women under representation in S&T.
On the other hand, science girls display always better indexes than their science men counterparts in all the significant differences found in the exploration, contrary to the usual patterns reported in the science education literature.
These findings and the empirical data that support them will be widely produced in the conference.

Vázquez, A., Manassero, M. A., & Acevedo, J. A. (2005). Quantitative analysis of complex multiple-choice items in science technology and society: Item scaling. Revista Electrónica de Investigación Educativa, 7 (1). Retrieved 2/10/2009 from
Research Project SEJ2007-67090/EDUC funded by the Education Ministry (Spain).