Che cosa spinge a studiare scienze? Buoni insegnanti, laboratori e fiction


Perché le discipline scientifiche sono spesso considerate difficili e noiose? Come mai sono relativamente poche le ragazze che frequentano corsi a indirizzo scientifico, soprattutto in alcuni settori?

Questi interrogativi sono emersi con forza negli ultimi tempi, a fronte di una preoccupazione espressa in numerosi Paesi per la diminuzione delle iscrizioni alle facoltà scientifiche, in particolare a Fisica, Chimica e Matematica. Preoccupazione che ha portato, anche in Italia, a numerose iniziative in questo settore, che in alcuni casi sembrano aver contribuito ad invertire, almeno in parte, il trend negativo dei primi anni Duemila.

In questo contesto, varie indagini internazionali hanno messo in luce come gli studi scientifici siano spesso percepiti dai giovani come ‘difficili’ e ‘astratti’ o di non evidente applicazione in ambito pratico e lavorativo. Esiste anche un forte squilibrio di genere: nonostante la sempre più rilevante presenza delle studentesse, esse rimangono sottorappresentate in numerosi settori scientifici.

Un ampio studio condotto da Observa Science in Society su un campione rappresentativo di 2667 studenti italiani iscritti al primo anno nelle facoltà scientifiche approfondisce questi temi e delinea alcune potenziali risposte.

La principale motivazione che li spinge all’iscrizione è l’interesse per la materia, spesso definito come vera e propria passione, soprattutto dalle studentesse (59%, rispetto al 48% dei maschi).

Per i ragazzi la seconda motivazione più rilevante sono le prospettive di successo personale e professionale, mentre le ragazze attribuiscono maggiore importanza alla possibilità di poter mettere in pratica i risultati dei propri studi e valorizzarne l’utilità, anche nella società.

Ma quanto pesano su queste motivazioni le esperienze scolastiche, le relazioni personali, e – più in generale – l’immaginario di scienza cui fanno riferimento gli studenti?

Il ruolo degli insegnanti e l’esperienza maturata a scuola rivestono un ruolo fondamentale. Prima ancora che i genitori, gli insegnanti sono indicati da quasi un giovane su due come punto di riferimento che ha guidato la scelta di studiare scienze all’università. D’altra parte, già una precedente indagine di Observa nelle scuole superiori aveva messo in luce che il fatto di poter utilizzare un laboratorio scientifico faceva triplicare la propensione a intraprendere studi scientifici universitari.

Rilevante anche il ruolo dell’immaginario scientifico delineato nei mezzi di comunicazione: libri e riviste di divulgazione scientifica sono spesso citate come un elemento importante nelle proprie scelte. Quasi tre ragazze su dieci citano anche film e serie televisive che incorporano elementi o figure scientifiche come CSI e Numbers; non trascurabili anche gli stimoli che vengono da visite a musei scientifici. Gli studenti maschi, d’altra parte, sono più attenti alle trasmissioni televisive di divulgazione scientifica, a manifestazioni pubbliche come incontri o festival della scienza e perfino a videogiochi su temi legati a scienza e tecnologia.

In definitiva, la scelta di una facoltà scientifica è una questione complessa, che matura nel tempo e affonda le radici motivazionali nelle esperienze scolastiche precedenti. Un ambiente scolastico appassionante, dotato di strutture adeguate e docenti motivati, appare il luogo migliore per stimolare a intraprendere studi scientifici. Ma anche l’immaginario dei media – talvolta bistrattato – appare in grado, a certe condizioni, di offrire importanti stimoli agli studenti, presentando in modo accattivante discipline tradizionalmente percepite come ostiche ed elitarie.

Giuseppe Pellegrini, tra i curatori dell’Annuario Scienza e Società 2011, è docente di Metodologia e Tecnica della Ricerca Sociale presso l’Università di Padova. È membro del comitato scientifico di Observa Science in Society e coordina la sezione “Scienza e Cittadini”.

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