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Longitudinal couplings between interest and conceptual understanding in secondary school chemistry: an activity-based perspective
Höft, L., Bernholt, S.

Longitudinal couplings between interest and conceptual understanding in secondary school chemistry: an activity-based perspective

International Journal of Science Education. DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2019.1571650

This paper presents the findings of a three-year longitudinal study (Grades 9–11; N = 756 students in German secondary schools; mean starting age = 14.7 years) that explores the development of and the interplay between upper-secondary students’ individual interest and conceptual understanding in chemistry. Students’ individual interest was assessed in seven dimensions of school science activities (realistic, investigative, artistic, social, conventional, and networking) according to Dierks et al.'s RIASEC+N model. The data was collected annually using paper-and-pencil questionnaires. In order to analyse the longitudinal relation between students’ academic interest and conceptual understanding, Eccles et al.'s Expectancy-Value Theoretical Model of Achievement Choices (EEVT) was utilised and seven bivariate cross-lagged models were performed to investigate the assumed reciprocal relations between both constructs. Regarding the developmental progression of individual interest and conceptual knowledge, latent growth curve models indicate a small decrease in all of the seven dimensions of students’ interest in school science activities and concomitant a moderate growth of students’ conceptual understanding. Moreover, structural equation modelling suggests weak reciprocal relations between students’ conceptual understanding and their interest in investigative, social and networking school science activities, respectively. Furthermore, students’ interest in enterprising activities predicted their subsequent conceptual understanding. No systematic pattern of cross-lagged effects between the three remaining interest dimensions and conceptual understanding were found. The results indicate that school science activities, which provide the potential for cognitively activating learning opportunities, could enhance the relation between students’ interest and conceptual understanding. Implications for teaching practice and further research are discussed.