Beyond the DAST: Young children’s visions of scientists in their own words

Canovan, Cherry orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9751-5646 and Walsh, Robert William orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1025-9863 (2024) Beyond the DAST: Young children’s visions of scientists in their own words. International Journal of Science Education . ISSN 0950-0693 (Submitted)

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Young people’s ideas about scientists are often tested using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST). While this has been a useful way of assessing prevalence of stereotypes for many years, there are drawbacks associated with the drawn mode of production, including representational skills which may lag comprehension, and potential for use of stereotyped imagery. Our study investigates whether the use of verbal modes of production in children’s depictions of the idea of the ‘scientist’ produces similar results to those of DAST. Comparison with a metanalysis of the DAST-C checklist shows that themes found in our participants’ descriptions were almost always also found in drawings analysed by other studies. However our participants were much more likely to identify scientists as intelligent, curious, and diligent, and much less likely to see them as antisocial or eccentric. There was also a notable theme identifying scientists with positive moral values, both job-related – altruistically making society ‘better’ – and more abstract, as ‘nice’ and ‘kind’. As concepts such as intelligence and kindness can be difficult to draw, we argue that allowing children to describe scientists in their own words provides a useful complement to their drawings.

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