The Impact of a Citizen Science Program on Student Achievement and Motivation: A Social Cognitive Career Perspective




Hiller, Suzanne E.

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Citizen science programs are joint efforts between hobbyists and professional scientists designed to collect data to support scientific research. Through these programs, biologists study species population trends while citizen scientists improve their content knowledge and science skills. The purpose of the present mixed method quasi-experimental study was to examine how involvement in a horseshoe crab citizen science intervention affected middle school student academic achievement and career motivation within a social cognitive career framework. Eighty six eighth graders from two schools were assigned into either a treatment or comparison group. Individuals from the treatment school received instruction from field experts on site and collected data for a biological researcher and a mock survey. The comparison group studied ecological niches within the same geographical area during class instruction; however, students did not conduct field research. All students responded to a series of surveys and content measures related to self-efficacy, interest, outcome expectations, choice goals, and academic achievement. Further, members of the treatment group participated in qualitative interviews to examine perceptions of their scientific observation skills and career influences. Findings supported the hypothesis that the treatment group would outperform the comparison group on all measures with the exception of choice goals. Path analysis results indicated that the interaction among self-efficacy, interest, content knowledge, and outcome expectations directly and indirectly influenced choice goals. In terms of gender, results confirmed the hypothesis that there would be no gender differences based on self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and choice goals although treatment males outperformed females on academic achievement. In addition, qualitative analysis corresponded with these findings by examining the influence this type of intervention had on student performance and career interests. The implications of this study are to highlight the benefits of collaborative opportunities with field experts during outdoor experiences on student academic and career path development.



Educational psychology, Educational tests & measurements, Environmental education, Choice goals, Citizen science, Interest, Scientific observation skills, Self-efficacy, Social cognitive career theory