Date of Award

Spring 3-19-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Secondary Education



Committee Chair

Dr. Kimberly L. Cortes

First Committee Member

Dr. Carolyn Wallace

Second Committee Member

Dr. Rebecca Hill

Third Committee Member

Dr. Brendan E. Callahan


High school students bring with them preconceived notions as to what types of laboratory experiments they will perform and content they will learn in chemistry class. Some of what students have learned about chemistry may have been derived from watching television in which chemistry is portrayed. There are many widely popular shows that portray science on television, and the narratives are over dramatized, simplified, or distorted for the sake of entertainment. Often the science portrayed on television is rooted in chemistry practices and thus influences students’ perceptions and attitudes of chemistry class. Though there is research in both fields of students’ attitudes towards chemistry and television’s impact on adolescents there is not research that directly addresses televisions impact on students’ perceptions of chemistry and chemistry laboratory. Therefore, this dissertation set out to investigate (1) students’ realities of chemistry class that are constructed while watching television and (2) how students’ expectations of laboratory compare to what they do in the high school chemistry laboratory. Multiple theoretical frameworks guided the methodological design of this dissertation. A qualitative phenomenological study was utilized, consisting of 2 phases: (1) surveys to reveal students’ attitude and image of a chemist and (2) laboratory recordings of students to provide insight into students’ laboratory experiences. Students’ attitudes contribute to the overall reality that the students have constructed about chemistry prior to taking the class. Students find chemistry to be cognitively demanding but emotionally satisfying. Based on preconceived expectations, students often wanted grander results in the laboratory, and as a result were disappointed when lab results were less spectacular than expected. Students expressed varying attitudes in the laboratory from being disappointed, excited, and having reservations about chemicals. The findings of this dissertation could be used in the classroom to assess the varying expectations that students bring to chemistry class and allow the instructor to meet the cognitive and affective needs of the students.