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Factors Related to Middle-school Students' Situational Interest in Science in Outdoor Lessons


Drawing on a mixed-methods convergent parallel design, this article presents the results of a study aimed at identifying the factors that are most related to middle school students’ situational interest during outdoor science lessons in their schools’ immediate surroundings. The study involved 26 French-speaking science teachers and 2007 students from 71 classes of French-speaking seventh (51 classes) and eighth (20 classes) graders in the province of Québec, Canada. The teachers were asked to plan and conduct five outdoor lessons in their school’s immediate surroundings in line with the existing provincial science program. The eleven influencing factors that were considered in the quantitative analysis were: the duration of the outdoor lesson, the students’ level of preparation, the opportunity to make choices, the outdoor environment, the position in the lesson sequence, the presence of a laboratory technician, the scientific discipline, the grouping of the students, the teacher’s outdoor teaching experience, the type of activity, and the weather conditions. To identify the factors most related to students’ situational interest, we first ran a bivariate correlation analysis and then used a three-level hierarchical linear model (HLM) with the significant factors from the bivariate correlation. We also conducted in-depth interviews with teachers, which allowed us to highlight convergences and divergences with the quantitative results. The results suggest that students’ level of preparation, an opportunity to make choices, putting students into action, and conducting a reasonably difficult outdoor activity were positively related to students’ situational interest, while grouping students in pairs and the position in the lesson sequence were negatively related to students’ situational interest. This article closes with possible implications for teaching practices and suggestions for further research, including underexplored aspects of outdoor science education in formal educational contexts.

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