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Abstract

This investigation examined 10th-grade biology students' decisions to enroll in elective science courses, and explored certain attitudinal perceptions of students that may be related to such decisions. The student science perceptions were focused on student and classroom attitudes in the context of differing learning cycle classrooms (high paradigmatic/high inquiry, and low paradigmatic/low inquiry). The study also examined possible differences in enrollment decisions/intentions and attitudinal perceptions among males and females in these course contexts. The specific purposes were to: (a) explore possible differences in students' decisions, and in male and female students' decisions to enroll in elective science courses in high versus low paradigmatic learning cycle classrooms; (b) describe patterns and examine possible differences in male and female students' attitudinal perceptions of science in the two course contexts; (c) investigate possible differences in students' science perceptions according to their decisions to enroll in elective science courses, participation in high versus low paradigmatic learning cycle classrooms, and the interaction between these two variables; and (d) examine students' explanations of their decisions to enroll or not enroll in elective science courses. Questionnaire and observation data were collected from 119 students in the classrooms of six learning cycle biology teachers. Results indicated that in classrooms where teachers most closely adhered to the ideal learning cycle, students had more positive attitudes than those in classrooms where teachers deviated from the ideal model. Significantly more females in high paradigmatic learning cycle classrooms planned to continue taking science course work compared with females in low paradigmatic learning cycle classrooms. Male students in low paradigmatic learning cycle classrooms had more negative perceptions of science compared with males in high paradigmatic classrooms, and in some cases, with all female students. It appears that using the model as it was originally designed may lead to more positive attitudes and persistence in science among students. Implications include the need for science educators to help teachers gain more thorough understanding of the learning cycle and its theoretical underpinnings so they may better implement this procedure in classroom teaching. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 38: 1029–1062, 2001