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Undergraduate Science Students’ Scientist–Practitioner Gap: the Role of Epistemic Curiosity and Cognitive Flexibility

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Abstract

The scientist–practitioner gap refers to the phenomenon of individuals with a scientific background exhibiting non-scientific beliefs. Informed by the social-cognitive process model, this study aimed to develop a more coherent understanding of how such non-scientific beliefs can be predicted by individuals’ cognitive flexibility mediated by their epistemic curiosity. A questionnaire was administered to 332 undergraduate students majoring in science at 2 universities in Taiwan. It included items on cognitive flexibility, 2 types of epistemic curiosity, and non-scientific beliefs. After the reliability and validity of the items and constructs were validated, structural equation modeling was applied to verify the research model. Results indicated that the 2 types of epistemic curiosity, interest-type and deprivation-type, were positively predicted by cognitive flexibility but were negatively reflected in the students’ non-scientific beliefs. The study also tested the gender difference for each factor and found that female students majoring in science tended to have stronger non-scientific beliefs than their male counterparts. The results imply that if a higher level of cognitive flexibility is attained, the scientist–practitioner gap may be reduced.

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Hong, J. C., Hwang, M. Y., Szeto, E., Tai, K. H., & Tsai, C. R. (2021). Undergraduate Science Students’ Scientist–Practitioner Gap: the Role of Epistemic Curiosity and Cognitive Flexibility. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 19(5), 899–913. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-020-10096-4

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