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Citation:Portes, P. R., Zady, M. F., & Dunham, R. M. (1998). The effects of parents' assistance on middle school students' problem solving and achievement. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 159(2), 163-178.

Annotation:
The authors investigate whether children's aptitudes in science are related to the nature of their mothersÕ interaction style during science tasks. They suggested from the results that high-achieving students most often solved a science task; in contrast, the low-achieving studentsÕ mothers tended to solve the task. The overall measure of attitude toward science was not significantly related to achievement: students were receptive to learning science regardless of school achievement or interaction style. Eighty-nine seventh grade student and parent volunteer pairs volunteered for the study after being invited by 7th grade science teachers. Measures included the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS)-derived normal curve equivalent and total achievement scores. Out of the 89, thirty-two pairs were selected from the 2nd and 4th highest quartiles in performance. Attitude measures were collected by responses to a 6-item questionnaire. Videotaped interviews contributed information about participation in science education at home. Three science interaction tasks of increasing difficulty were designed that required the pairs to make predictions and generalizations from their findings. The researchers coded the interaction of mother and child by looking at guidance, modeling, feedback, reinforcement, and questioning. Science educators would find the methodology interesting and informative for discussions on parent help with science projects, though there were several problems with the validity of the study. For example, mothers supplied the parent data, volunteers were used, and, though researchers did try to allow for the effects of income, there were few students with high achievement and low SES is the sample. In addition, the science tasks were not tested for reliability, and the scoring was not described.

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