Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 432–448 | Cite as

Science Anxiety, Science Attitudes, and Constructivism: A Binational Study

  • Fred B. Bryant
  • Helge Kastrup
  • Maria Udo
  • Nelda Hislop
  • Rachel Shefner
  • Jeffry Mallow


Students’ attitudes and anxieties about science were measured by responses to two self-report questionnaires. The cohorts were Danish and American students at the upper secondary- and university-levels. Relationships between and among science attitudes, science anxiety, gender, and nationality were examined. Particular attention was paid to constructivist attitudes about science. These fell into at least three broad conceptual categories: Negativity of Science Toward the Individual, Subjective Construction of Knowledge, and Inherent Bias Against Women. Multigroup confirmatory factor analyses revealed that these dimensions of constructivist attitudes were equally applicable and had the same meaning in both cultures. Gender differences in mean levels of constructivist attitudes were found; these varied across the two cultures. Constructivist beliefs were associated with science anxiety, but in different ways for females and males, and for Danes and Americans. In agreement with earlier studies, females in both the US and Danish cohorts were significantly more science anxious than males, and the gender differences for the Americans were larger than those for the Danes. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for reducing science anxiety by changing constructivist beliefs.


Science anxiety Science attitudes Constructivism Binational study Gender 


  1. Aikenhead G, Ryan A, Fleming R (1992) The development of a new instrument: ‘Views on Science-Technology-Society’ VOSTS. Sci Education 76:477–492. Test available at
  2. Alvaro R (1978) The effectiveness of a science-therapy program on science-anxious undergraduates. Doctoral dissertation, Loyola University, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  3. Babbie ER (1973) Survey research methods. Wadsworth, Belmont, CAGoogle Scholar
  4. Bentler PM (1990) Comparative fit indexes in structural models. Psychol Bull 107:238–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bentler PM, Bonett DG (1980) Significance tests and goodness of fit in the analysis of covariance structures. Psychol Bull 88:588–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beyer K (1991) Gender, science anxiety and learning style. Contributions to the sixth GASAT conferenceGoogle Scholar
  7. Beyer K, Blegaa S, Olsen B, Reich J, Vedelsby M (1988) Piger og fysik (Females and physics. In Danish). IMFUFA Texts, Roskilde University Center, Roskilde, DKGoogle Scholar
  8. Bollen KA (1989) Structural equations with latent variables. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Breckler SJ (1984) Empirical validation of affect, behavior, and cognition as distinct components of attitude. J Pers Soc Psychol 47:1191–1205. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.47.6.1191 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown TA (2006) Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Browne MW, Cudeck R (1993) Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In: Bollen KA, Long JS (eds) Testing structural equation models. Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp 136–162Google Scholar
  12. Brownlow S, Jacobi T, Rogers MI (2000) Science anxiety as a function of gender and experience. Sex Roles 42:119–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bryant FB, Yarnold PR (1995) Principal-components analysis and exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. In: Grimm LG, Yarnold PR (eds) Reading and understanding multivariate statistics. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp 99–136Google Scholar
  14. Cattell RB (1966) The scree test for the number of factors. Multivar Behav Res 1:245–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd edn. Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  16. Converse JM, Presser S (1986) Survey questions: handcrafting the standardized questionnaire. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  17. Costello AB, Osborne JW (2005) Best practices in exploratory factor analysis: four recommendations for getting more from your analysis. Pract Assess Res Evaluation 10(7):1–9. Available online: Google Scholar
  18. Cronbach LJ (1951) Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika 16:297–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fensham P, Gunstone R, White R (eds) (1994) The content of science: a constructivist approach to its teaching and learning. Falmer Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Fraser B (1981) TOSRA: Test of science- related attitudes. The Australian Council for Educational Research LTD.
  21. Fuller R, Agruso S, Mallow J, Nichols D, Sapp R, Strassenburg A, Allen G (1985) Developing student confidence in physics. AAPT, College Park, MDGoogle Scholar
  22. Gautreau R, Novemsky L (1997) Concepts first—a small group approach to physics learning. Am J Phys 65:418–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hake R (1998) Interactive engagement vs. traditional methods: a six-thousand student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am J Phys 66:64–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hake R, Mallow JV (2008) Gender issues in science/math education (GISME). Over 700 annotated references and 1000 URL’s: *Part 1—All references in alphabetical order, online as an 8.6 MB pdf at <>, *Part 2—Some references in subject order, online as an 4.9 MB pdf at <>
  25. Halloun I (2001) Student views about science: a comparative survey. Educational Research Center, Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon. Online at
  26. Harding S (1991) Whose science? Whose knowledge? Thinking from women’s lives. Open University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Hayton JC, Allen DG, Scarpello V (2004) Factor retention decisions in exploratory factor analysis: a tutorial on parallel analysis. Organ Res Methods 7:191–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hu L-T, Bentler PM (1998) Fit indices in covariance structure modeling: sensitivity to underparameterized model misspecification. Psychol Methods 3:424–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jaccard J, Wan CK (1996) LISREL approaches to interaction effects in multiple regression. Series: quantitative applications in social sciences. Sage, Beverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar
  30. Jöreskog K, Sörbom D (1996) LISREL 8: user’s reference guide. Scientific Software International, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  31. Kastrup H, Mallow JV (2007) Science anxiety in the Danish gymnasium. Danish Ministry of Education reportGoogle Scholar
  32. Keller EF (1985) Reflections on gender and science. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  33. Kline RB (2010) Principles and practice of structural equation modeling, 3rd edn. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Lorenzo M, Crouch CH, Mazur E (2006) Reducing the gender gap in the physics classroom. Am J Phys 74:118–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mallow J (1978) A science anxiety program. Am J Phys 46:862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mallow J (1986) Science anxiety: fear of science and how to overcome it. Revised edition. H & H Publications, Clearwater, FLGoogle Scholar
  37. Mallow J (1993) The science learning climate: Danish female and male students’ descriptions. Proc. GASAT 7, 1, 78. Available from authorGoogle Scholar
  38. Mallow J (1994) Gender-related science anxiety: a first binational study. J Sci Educ Technol 3:227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mallow J (1995) Students’ confidence and teachers’ styles: a binational comparison. Am J Phys 63:1007–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mallow J (1998) Student attitudes and enrolments in physics, with emphasis on gender, nationality, and science anxiety. In: Jensen JH, Niss M, Wedege T (eds) Justification and enrollment problems in education involving mathematics or physics. Roskilde University Press, Roskilde, DK, pp 237–258Google Scholar
  41. Mallow J (2007) Constructivism in physics education—philosophically problematic, but pedagogically successful. AGORA J Res Dev Idea Exchange. Copenhagen. Online at
  42. Mallow J, Kastrup H, Bryant FB, Hislop N, Shefner R, Udo M (2010) Science anxiety, science attitudes, and gender: interviews from a binational study. J Sci Educ Technol 19:356–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Matthews M (2002) Constructivism and science education: a further appraisal. J Sci Educ Technol 11:121–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McDermott L, Redish E (1999) Resource letter: PER-1: physics education research. Am J Phys 67:755–767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mejding J (ed) (2004) PISA 2003—Danske unge i en international sammenligning (Danish youth in an international comparison). DPU forlag, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  46. Mosier CI (1943) On the reliability of a weighted composite. Psychometrika 8:161–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Murphy KR, Davidshofer CO (1988) Psychological testing: principles and applications. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  48. Nunnally JC (1967) Psychometric theory (1st edn). McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Redish E, Steinberg R, Saul J (1998) Student expectations in introductory physics. Am J Phys 66:212–224. See also Google Scholar
  50. Schuman H (2008) Method and meaning in polls and surveys. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  51. Solomon J (1994) Constructivism and quality in science education. In: Poulsen AC (ed) Naturfagenes pædagogik (Pedagogy of the natural sciences). Gyldendal Press, Copenhagen, DK, pp 17–29Google Scholar
  52. Steiger JH (1990) Structural model evaluation and modification: an interval estimation approach. Multivar Behav Res 25:173–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tucker LR, Lewis C (1973) A reliability coefficient for maximum likelihood factor analysis. Psychometrika 38:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ucar S, Sanalan V (2011) How has reform in science teacher education programs changed preservice teachers’ views about science? J Sci Educ Technol 20:435–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Udo MK, Ramsey GP, Reynolds-Alpert S, Mallow JV (2001) Does physics teaching affect gender-based science anxiety? J Sci Educ Technol 10:237–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Udo MK, Ramsey GP, Reynolds-Alpert S, Mallow JV (2004) Science anxiety and gender in students taking general education science courses. J Sci Educ Technol 13:435–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. UN Division for the Advancement of Women & UNESCO, Paris (2010). Online at

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred B. Bryant
    • 1
  • Helge Kastrup
    • 2
  • Maria Udo
    • 3
  • Nelda Hislop
    • 4
  • Rachel Shefner
    • 5
  • Jeffry Mallow
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Mathematics and ScienceUniversity College Capital (UCC)CopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.School of EducationLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Center for Science and Math Education, Loyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations