The quest to understand the attitudes people have towards plants gets a statistical boost from biologists Jana Fancovicova and Pavol Prokop in Development and Initial Psychomatic Assessment of the Plant Attitudes Questionnaire. This study marks the first attempt to systematically evaluate the attitudes students have towards plants (Fancovicova and Prokop, 2010).
Fancovicova and Prokop (2010) used their new assessment tool in a study to determine the following:
- Do students from families who maintaiin a garden exhibit a more positive attitude towards plants?
- Do females have more positive attitudes towards plants than males?
Attitudes towards plants are the focus of their assessment tool and research because attitudes affect behavior and changes in behavior are necessary for humans to take responsibility for their role in the loss of plant biodiversity (Fancovicova and Prokop, 2010).
The Plant Attitude Scale (PAS) they created contains 45 Likert-style questions addressing student attitudes about the importance of plants, interest in plants, plant use in society and the costs and benefits of urban trees. The structure and reliability of the PAS was assessed using statistical analysis. The attitudes of 310 Slovakian students were analyzed. Students age 10-15 years were surveyed specifically because this age group has been found to be “important in the development of children’s cognitive abilities and their ecological awareness of the role of animals in their natural habitats” (Fancovicova and Prokop, 2010) and the authors assumed this was also true regarding this age group’s awareness of plants. Student participation was on a volunteer basis and dependent upon whether or not a teacher wanted to take the time to distribute the PAS to his/her students.
Fancovicova and Prokop (2010) found that student attitudes towards plants was neutral overall. Children who came from families who maintained a garden had a more positive attitude towards plants than their counterparts. While more positive, the difference in attitudes was statistically significant only with respect to Interest in plants. These results are consistent with the results found in other studies about student interest in plants. The authors also found there was no significant difference with respect to interest level between male and female students.
These findings, as well as additional observations, are discussed in detail in Fancovicova and Prokop (2010). Overall results suggest students do not value plants and that educational programs aimed at increasing student appreciation towards plants are important and necessary (Fancovicova and Prokop, 2010). Fancovicova and Prokop (2010) make several suggestions for future research using the sound assessment tool they created. Suggestions include assessing teacher attitudes towards urban trees, assessing the effectiveness of gardening activities in schools, and assessing the effectiveness of outdoor education programs.
Fancovicova, Jana and Pavol Prokop. 2010. Development and initial psychometric assessment of the Plant Attitude Questionnaire. Journal of Science Education and Technology. Volume 19: 415-421.