Page: 37-46 Author: Prokop, P., Komorníková, M. Key words:
Students‘ attitudes toward science are thought to be generally negative, because science is considered boring and irrelevant to the everyday lives of most people. Science is more attractive to males than females. In comparison with chemistry and physics, however, natural history (mainly biology) is viewed somewhat differently, with females showing a greater preference for it than males. Student attitudes toward natural history have been relatively overlooked in comparison with other school subjects. In the present study we investigated secondary students‘ (N = 245) attitudes toward natural history in four dimensions: interest, difficulty, importance for future life, and attitudes toward using biological equipment in biology lessons. These dimensions were derived by factor analysis using Varimax rotation. The questionnaire employed achieved a high level of reliability (Cronbach‘s alpha = 0.84). We found that older students have lesspositive attitudes to natural history than younger ones, but that, interestingly, the perceived difficulty of the subject was not influenced by age but by teacher and gender (boys perceived natural history as more difficult than girls). Our data did not therefore confirm earlier theories that attitudes are mainly influenced by age, i.e. that positive attitudes diminish as student age increases. Instead, we suggest that attitudes are more influenced by differences in natural history topics (zoology is most interesting, geology and paleontology least interesting). There were significant age-based differences when it came to perception of natural history as the favourite school subject, and students who stated that biology was their favourite subject did significantly differ in attitudes toward biology in comparison with other students. Students showed the least positive rating when it came to geology and paleontology. Further research should therefore focus on this topic.