Adolescents' Declining Motivation to Learn Science: Inevitable or Not?



There is a growing awareness that science education should center not just on knowledge acquisition but developing the foundation for lifelong learning. However, for intentional learning of science to occur in school, out of school, and after school, there needs to be a motivation to learn science. Prior research had shown that students' motivation to learn science tends to decrease during adolescence [Anderman and Young [1994] Journal of Research in Science Teaching 31: 811–831; Lee and Anderson [1993] American Educational Research Journal 30: 585–610; Simpson and Oliver [1990] Science Education 74: 1–18]. This study compared 5th through 8th grade students' self-reported goal orientations, engagement in science class, continuing motivation for science learning, and perceptions of their schools' and parents' goals emphases, in Israeli traditional and democratic schools. The results show that the aforementioned decline in adolescents' motivation for science learning in school and out of school is not an inevitable developmental trend, since it is apparent only in traditional schools but not in democratic ones. The results suggest that the non-declining motivation of adolescents in democratic schools is not a result of home influence but rather is related to the school culture. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., J Res Sci Teach 48: 199–216, 2011