“To see ourselves as others see us”: Post-primary school students’ drawings of scientists before and after participation in a career orientation programme


  • Aimee Stapleton Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, University of Limerick https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3953-7855
  • Martin McHugh Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, University of Limerick https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1233-7340
  • Peter E Childs Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Limerick
  • Sarah Hayes Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, University of Limerick




Draw-a-Scientist-Test, Transition Year, Science Camp, Perceptions of Scientists, Career-Orientation


The stereotypical image of a scientist has negative consequences in terms of promoting a perception of scientists and relevant careers that is both positive and realistic. This study employs a modified Draw a Scientist Test (DAST) to investigate the perceptions held by post-primary school students in Ireland about scientists and their work. Participants completed the DAST before and after partaking in a Career Orientation Programme that aimed to promote careers in science and portray scientists and their working life realistically. 
After completing the programme, participants’ drawings were less stereotypical, with fewer images of male scientist working alone. 
Drawings also reflected activities the participants did throughout the programme, suggesting that first-hand experience can broaden perceptions of scientific careers.


Barnett, M., Wagner, H., Gatling, A., Anderson, J., Houle, M., & Kafka, A. (2006). The impact of science fiction film on student understanding of science. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 15(2), 179-191.

Bennett, J., & Hogarth, S. (2009). Would you want to talk to a scientist at a party? High school students’ attitudes to school science and to science. International Journal of Science Education, 31(14), 1975-1998.

Bischoff, P. J., et al. (2008). A Science Summer Camp as an Effective Way to Recruit High School Students to Major in the Physical Sciences and Science Education. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 3(3): 131-141.

Cakmakci, G., Tosun, O., Turgut, S., Orenler, S., Sengul, K., & Top, G. (2011). Promoting an inclusive image of scientists among students: Towards research evidence-based practice. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9(3), 627-655.

Chambers, D. W. (1983). Stereotypic images of the scientist: The Draw‐a‐Scientist Test. Science education, 67(2), 255-265.

Clerkin, A. (2012). Personal development in secondary education: the Irish Transition Year. education policy analysis archives, 20, 38.

Ehrlén, K. (2009). Drawings as Representations of Children's Conceptions. International Journal of Science Education, 31(1), 41-57. doi:10.1080/09500690701630455

Farenga, S. J., & Joyce, B. A. (1999). Intentions of young students to enroll in science courses in the future: An examination of gender differences. Science education, 83(1), 55-75.

Farland‐Smith, D. (2009). Exploring middle school girls’ science identities: Examining attitudes and perceptions of scientists when working “side‐by‐side” with scientists. School Science and Mathematics, 109(7), 415-427.

Finson, K. D., Beaver, J. B., & Cramond, B. L. (1995). Development and field test of a checklist for the Draw‐A‐Scientist Test. School Science and Mathematics, 95(4), 195-205.

Finson, K. D., Pedersen, J., & Thomas, J. (2006). Comparing science teaching styles to students' perceptions of scientists. School Science and Mathematics, 106(1), 8-15.

Fung, Y. Y. (2002). A comparative study of primary and secondary school students' images of scientists. Research in Science & Technological Education, 20(2), 199-213.

Foster, J. S. and N. Shiel-Rolle (2011). Building Scientific Literacy through Summer Science Camps: A Strategy for Design, Implementation and Assessment. Science Education International, 22(2): 85-98.

Kim, M. and E. Dopico (2016). Science education through informal education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11(2): 439-445.

Kong, X., Dabney, K. P., & Tai, R. H. (2014). The association between science summer camps and career interest in science and engineering. International Journal of Science Education, Part B, 4(1), 54-65.

Lee, J. D. (1998). Which kids can" become" scientists? Effects of gender, self-concepts, and perceptions of scientists. Social Psychology Quarterly, 199-219.

McAdam, J. E. (1990). The persistent stereotype: Children's images of scientists. Physics Education, 25(2), 102.

McCarthy, D. (2015). Teacher candidates’ perceptions of scientists: images and attributes. Educational Review, 67(4): 389-413.

Perry, C., & Ball, I. (1998). What do teachers really know about work? professional development through education-industry links. Teacher Development, 2(1), 73-86.

Reinisch, B., Krell, M., Hergert, S., Gogolin, S., & Krüger, D. (2017). Methodical challenges concerning the Draw-A-Scientist Test: a critical view about the assessment and evaluation of learners’ conceptions of scientists. International Journal of Science Education, 39(14), 1952-1975.

Schummer, J., & Spector, T. I. (2007). Popular images versus self-images of science: Visual representations of science in clipart cartoons and internet photographs. Science Images and Popular Images of Science, London-New York: Routledge, 69-95.

Department of Education and Science. (1993). Transition Year programmes guidelines 1994 -1995.

Tan, A.-L., et al. (2017). Spiderman and science: How students’ perceptions of scientists are shaped by popular media. Public Understanding of Science, 26(5): 520-530.

Türkmen, H. (2008). Turkish Primary Students' Perceptions about Scientist and What Factors Affecting the Image of the Scientists. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 4(1).

Walsh, J., & Loxley, A. (2015). The Hunt Report and higher education policy in the Republic of Ireland: ‘an international solution to an Irish problem?’. Studies in Higher Education, 40(6), 1128-1145. doi:10.1080/03075079.2014.881350



How to Cite

Stapleton, A., McHugh, M., Childs, P. E., & Hayes, S. (2018). “To see ourselves as others see us”: Post-primary school students’ drawings of scientists before and after participation in a career orientation programme. Action Research and Innovation in Science Education, 1(1), 15–25. https://doi.org/10.12973/arise/96343