Tag Archive: Sciences

Teaching genetics using hands-on models, problem solving, and inquiry-based methods (Education Papers posted on April 11th, 2014 )

Teaching genetics can be challenging because of the difficulty of the content and misconceptions students might hold. This thesis focused on using hands-on model activities, problem solving, and inquiry-based teaching/learning methods in order to increase student understanding in an introductory biology class in the area of genetics. Various activities using these three methods were implemented into the classes to address any misconceptions and increase student learning of the difficult concepts. The activities that were implemented were shown to be successful based on pre-post assessment score comparison. The students were assessed on the subjects of inheritance patterns, meiosis, and protein synthesis and demonstrated growth in all of the areas. IT was found that hands-on models, problem solving, and inquiry-based activities were more successful in learning concepts in genetics and the students were more engaged than tradition styles of lecture.

The dilemma of guidance in scientific inquiry teaching (Education Papers posted on March 27th, 2013 )

The dilemma of guidance is a universal predicament that lies at the core of teaching. That is, teachers must simultaneously allow students to explore and learn on their own, while making sure that students efforts result in the particular understandings that we want them to learn. The space between is occupied by some level of guidance provided by the teacher to support students learning; yet the nature of that guidance remains unknown for many teachers. This study is a mixed-method, multiple case study that explores the guidance four teachers provided their students during discussions in scientific inquiry investigations. The scientific inquiry reform movement has been around for over 40 years, and has shown positive impact on student learning; however, present descriptions of scientific inquiry teaching are vague and have led to large variations in how teachers actually implement this method in their classrooms. Through a review of literature on the role of discourse in classrooms, I developed a collection of strategies that are indicative of more or less guidance provided by the teacher during discussions. I then applied this framework in a larger study that examined the impact of formative assessment on teachers teaching a middle school, physical science unit on sinking and floating that helps students develop a relative-density based, universal explanation for sinking and floating. From the 12 teachers who were trained to use this curriculum the larger study, I selected four for this dissertation. Two of these teachers had students who showed higher learning gains from pre- to posttests of student learning, while the other two teachers students showed lower learning gains. This dissertation used three sources of data—videotapes of classroom discussions, teacher interviews, and measures of student learning—to explore the nature of guidance and its relationship to student learning. The four teachers lessons were examined and their whole-class discussions were identified; these discussions were then segmented and coded according to the directedness of guidance provided by the teacher and the level of conceptual understanding evident in the discourse. The resulting coding summaries were paired with teacher interviews and used to triangulate propositions about each teachers pattern of guidance. In addition, students learning was measured at four points through the unit to determine the state of students explanations of sinking and floating. The findings of this study revealed large differences in the guidance teachers provided students during the unit. Teachers whose students showed lower gains in learning exhibited patterns of alternating between high and low levels of guidance. The teachers whose students showed higher gains had more mixed patterns of guidance. The results suggested that the teachers whose students had higher gains illustrated more instructionally responsive teaching, and took an active role to move students toward learning goals, whereas the lower-gain classes received little meaningful guidance from teachers. Measures of student learning indicated teacher effects. This dissertation suggests that current descriptions of scientific inquiry teaching have led to interpretations of the method that do not acknowledge the vital role of the teacher in actively guiding students to reach learning goals.

Developing resident learning profiles: Do scientific evidence epistemology beliefs, EBM self-efficacy beliefs and EBM skills matter (Education Papers posted on March 26th, 2013 )

This study investigated resident scientific evidence epistemology beliefs, evidence based medicine EBM) self-efficacy beliefs, and EBM skills. A convenience sample of fifty-one residents located in six U.S. based residency programs completed an online instrument. Hofers epistemology survey questionnaire was modified to test responses based on four types of scientific evidence encountered in Medical practice Clinical Trial Phase 1, Clinical Trial Phase 3, Meta-analysis and Qualitative). IT was hypothesized that epistemology beliefs would differ based on the type of scientific evidence considered. A principal components analysis produced a two factor solution that was significant across type of scientific evidence suggesting that when evaluating epistemology beliefs context does matter. Factor 1 is related to the certainty of research methods and the certainty of Medical conclusions and factor 2 denotes medical justification. For each type of scientific evidence, both factors differed on questions comprising the factor structure with significant differences found for the factor 1 and 2 questions. A justification belief case problem using checklist format was triangulated with the survey results, and as predicted the survey and checklist justification z scores indicated no significant differences, and two new justification themes emerged. Modified versions of Finney and Schraws statistical self-efficacy and skill instruments produced expected significant EBM score correlations with unexpected results indicating that the number of EBM and statistics courses are not significant for EBM self-efficacy and skill scores. The study results were applied to the construction of a learning profile that provided residents belief and skill feedback specific to individual learning needs. The learning profile design incorporated core values related to Believer populations that focus on art, harmony, tact and diplomacy. Future research recommendations include testing context and case problems in other domains with larger sample sizes, offering belief feedback profiles to understand how individuals value and apply belief knowledge, and conducting belief and skill testing using online access.

Developing resident learning profiles: Do scientific evidence epistemology beliefs, EBM self-efficacy beliefs and EBM skills matter (Education Papers posted on March 26th, 2013 )

This study investigated resident scientific evidence epistemology beliefs, evidence based medicine EBM) self-efficacy beliefs, and EBM skills. A convenience sample of fifty-one residents located in six U.S. based residency programs completed an online instrument. Hofers epistemology survey questionnaire was modified to test responses based on four types of scientific evidence encountered in Medical practice Clinical Trial Phase 1, Clinical Trial Phase 3, Meta-analysis and Qualitative). IT was hypothesized that epistemology beliefs would differ based on the type of scientific evidence considered. A principal components analysis produced a two factor solution that was significant across type of scientific evidence suggesting that when evaluating epistemology beliefs context does matter. Factor 1 is related to the certainty of research methods and the certainty of Medical conclusions and factor 2 denotes medical justification. For each type of scientific evidence, both factors differed on questions comprising the factor structure with significant differences found for the factor 1 and 2 questions. A justification belief case problem using checklist format was triangulated with the survey results, and as predicted the survey and checklist justification z scores indicated no significant differences, and two new justification themes emerged. Modified versions of Finney and Schraws statistical self-efficacy and skill instruments produced expected significant EBM score correlations with unexpected results indicating that the number of EBM and statistics courses are not significant for EBM self-efficacy and skill scores. The study results were applied to the construction of a learning profile that provided residents belief and skill feedback specific to individual learning needs. The learning profile design incorporated core values related to Believer populations that focus on art, harmony, tact and diplomacy. Future research recommendations include testing context and case problems in other domains with larger sample sizes, offering belief feedback profiles to understand how individuals value and apply belief knowledge, and conducting belief and skill testing using online access.

Student-generated illustrations and written narratives of biological science concepts: The effect on community college life science students’ achievement in and attitudes toward science (Education Papers posted on March 25th, 2013 )

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of two conceptually based instructional strategies on science achievement and attitudes of community college biological science students. The sample consisted of 277 students enrolled in General Biology 1, Microbiology, and Human Anatomy and Physiology 1. Control students were comprised of intact classes from the 2005 Spring semester; treatment students from the 2005 Fall semester were randomly assigned to one of two groups within each course: written narrative WN) and illustration IL). WN students prepared in-class written narratives related to cell theory and metabolism, which were taught in all three courses. IL students prepared in-class illustrations of the same concepts. Control students received traditional lecture/lab during the entire class period and neither wrote in-class descriptions nor prepared in-class illustrations of the targeted concepts. All groups were equivalent on age, gender, ethnicity, GPA, and number of college credits earned and were blinded to the study. All interventions occurred in class and no group received more attention or time to complete assignments. A multivariate analysis of covariance MANCOVA) via multiple regression was the primary statistical strategy used to test the studys hypotheses. The model was valid and statistically significant. Independent follow-up univariate analyses relative to each dependent measure found that no research factor had a significant effect on attitude, but that course-teacher, group membership, and student academic characteristics had a significant effect p < .05) on achievement: 1) Biology students scored significantly lower in achievement than A&P students; 2) Microbiology students scored significantly higher in achievement than Biology students; 3) Written Narrative students scored significantly higher in achievement than Control students; and 4) GPA had a significant effect on achievement. In addition, given p < .08: 1) Microbiology students averaged lower in achievement than A&P students; 2) Illustration students averaged higher in achievement than Control students; and 3) Written Narrative students averaged higher in achievement than Illustration students. Findings suggest that science achievement can be enhanced via student-generated illustrations and written narratives, these interventions had no effect on attitudes toward science, and the interventions benefited A&P students more than Microbiology and Biology students.

Student-generated illustrations and written narratives of biological science concepts: The effect on community college life science students’ achievement in and attitudes toward science (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of two conceptually based instructional strategies on science achievement and attitudes of community college biological science students. The sample consisted of 277 students enrolled in General Biology 1, Microbiology, and Human Anatomy and Physiology 1. Control students were comprised of intact classes from the 2005 Spring semester; treatment students from the 2005 Fall semester were randomly assigned to one of two groups within each course: written narrative WN) and illustration IL). WN students prepared in-class written narratives related to cell theory and metabolism, which were taught in all three courses. IL students prepared in-class illustrations of the same concepts. Control students received traditional lecture/lab during the entire class period and neither wrote in-class descriptions nor prepared in-class illustrations of the targeted concepts. All groups were equivalent on age, gender, ethnicity, GPA, and number of college credits earned and were blinded to the study. All interventions occurred in class and no group received more attention or time to complete assignments. A multivariate analysis of covariance MANCOVA) via multiple regression was the primary statistical strategy used to test the studys hypotheses. The model was valid and statistically significant. Independent follow-up univariate analyses relative to each dependent measure found that no research factor had a significant effect on attitude, but that course-teacher, group membership, and student academic characteristics had a significant effect p < .05) on achievement: 1) Biology students scored significantly lower in achievement than A&P students; 2) Microbiology students scored significantly higher in achievement than Biology students; 3) Written Narrative students scored significantly higher in achievement than Control students; and 4) GPA had a significant effect on achievement. In addition, given p < .08: 1) Microbiology students averaged lower in achievement than A&P students; 2) Illustration students averaged higher in achievement than Control students; and 3) Written Narrative students averaged higher in achievement than Illustration students. Findings suggest that science achievement can be enhanced via student-generated illustrations and written narratives, these interventions had no effect on attitudes toward science, and the interventions benefited A&P students more than Microbiology and Biology students.

Listening to their voices: The essence of the experience of special and regular education students as they learn monarch, Danaus plexippus, biology and ecology (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

This dissertation reports on a phenomenological study of nine regular and special education students as they studied insect biology and ecology in their inclusive seventh grade life science class. Three fundamental data collection methods of interpretive research student observations, interviews and artifact analysis) framed the data collection of this study. Hermeneutic phenomenological analysis and a seven-step framework, beginning with establishment of the unit of analysis and ending in theory generation, were used to systematically analyze the data resulting in the emergence of four main themes. The essence of the lived experience of the study participants reveal a variety of ways working with others in groups supported their learning. Students reported that IT was easier to share ideas, ask questions and complete their work when they worked together with other classmates. A second finding of this study, Its kind of hard in learning science, exposes some of the anxiety and the challenges that are part of the experiences of both regular and special education students in learning science. A third finding reveals that for the students in this study the practice of inquiry learning in science is fragile. Despite daily opportunities in inquiry activities, many students are fixated in finding the “right” answers and just getting their “work done.” The practice of inquiry is also fragile because of the perceptions of how we go about doing and learning science. The perception of practicing science for the special education students was moderated and limited by their viewpoint that science is coupled with language arts. The last major theme describes the manner in which both student groups navigate through science learning using various strategies that contribute to their learning or engaging in behaviors that seem to conceal their learning differences. The results of this research have implication for inclusive classroom teachers, special educators, teacher educators and administrators. Listening to their voices serves to “prime” us to consider and value their perspectives as we make decisions that affect their learning and their lives.

Student use of vectors in mechanics (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

A functional understanding of Newton’s second law as a vector equation requires that students be able to reason about vectors. In this dissertation, we present data describing students’ conceptual difficulties with vector addition and subtraction, and with vector quantities such as force, acceleration and tension. These data suggest that after traditional instruction in introductory physics, some students do not recognize the vector nature of these quantities. Other students who do not have the requisite procedural knowledge to determine net force or acceleration, and are therefore unable to reason qualitatively about Newton’s second law. We describe some specific procedural and reasoning difficulties we have observed in students’ use of vectors. In addition, we describe modifications to laboratory instruction in mechanics that we designed on the basis of our research into student understanding. These modifications were intended to improve students’ understanding of vector addition and subtraction and to promote student use of vectors when solving mechanics problems. Finally, we describe initial measures of the effectiveness of these modifications.

Examining the effects of a DNA fingerprinting workshop on science teachers’ professional development and student learning (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

The 21st century has become the age of biology with the completion of the human genome project and other milestone discoveries. Recent progress has redefined what IT means to be scientifically literate, which is the ultimate goal in science education. “What students should know?” “What needs to be taught?” These questions lead to reformulation of the science curriculum due to the changing nature of scientific knowledge. Molecular biology is increasingly emphasized in the science curriculum along with applications of the latest developments within our daily lives, such as medicine or legal matters. However, many schools and classrooms exclude the latest advances in molecular genetics from science curriculum and even teach biology as a non-laboratory science. Many science educators wonder what can be done to help every child gain meaningful experiences with molecular genetics. Limited content knowledge among teachers due to the changing nature of scientific knowledge, and the rapid discoveries in technology are known to be a part of the problem for teachers, especially for teachers who have been in the workforce for many years. A major aim of professional development is to help teachers cope with the advances in scientific knowledge and provide paths for teachers to continually improve their knowledge and skills. The expectation is that increased knowledge and skills among teachers will be reflected in student achievement. Professional development is typically offered in a variety of formats, from short-term, one-shot workshop approaches to long term courses. The effectiveness of short-term exposures, though, is in many cases is questionable. One of the issues appears to be the gap between the incidence of teachers attendance at professional development programs and the incidence of implementation in participants classrooms. This study focuses on this issue by exploring the relationship between teachers professional development attendance and their implementation behavior. The goal is to understand what factors affect teachers decision making to implement the new knowledge and skills in their classrooms. For this purpose, the study focuses on the effects of a DNA fingerprinting workshop, which has been developed and is regularly offered by a large Midwestern university in the United States for secondary science teachers and their students through cooperation between the university and a large Midwestern public school district. The workshop focuses on the biotechnology applications of genetics—specifically, use of DNA fingerprinting technology in different areas of Social life—while forensic science is emphasized. Results indicate that the teachers motivation to attend the DNA Fingerprinting professional development workshop was mainly influenced by two variables: 1) the need to improve content knowledge and skills, and 2) requirements associated with current educational policies. Level of content knowledge was also found to be a factor contributing to teachers motivation to implement the workshop. Concerns related to student maturity and classroom management were also identified as factors influencing teachers implementation behavior. Evidence that the DNA Fingerprinting workshop can be successfully implemented by classroom teachers was obtained. The DNA fingerprinting workshop was found to be a successful model for packaging professional development experiences for content intensive areas.

Part I. Development of a concept inventory addressing students’ beliefs and reasoning difficulties regarding the greenhouse effect, Part II. Distribution of chlorine measured by the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer (Education Papers posted on March 23rd, 2013 )

This work presents two research efforts, one involving planetary science education research and a second involving the surface composition of Mars. In the former, student beliefs and reasoning difficulties associated with the greenhouse effect were elicited through student interviews and written survey responses from >900 US undergraduate non-science majors. This guided the development of the Greenhouse Effect Concept Inventory GECI), an educational research tool designed to assess pre- and post-instruction conceptual understanding of the greenhouse effect. Three versions of this multiple-choice instrument were administered to >2,500 undergraduates as part of the development and validation process. In contrast to previous research efforts regarding causes, consequences, and solutions to the enhanced greenhouse effect, the GECI focuses primarily on the physics of energy flow through Earths atmosphere. The GECI is offered to the science education community as a research tool for assessing instructional strategies on this topic. IT was confirmed that the study population subscribes to several previously identified beliefs. These include correct understandings that carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas and the greenhouse effect increases planetary surface temperatures. Students also commonly associate the greenhouse effect with increased penetration of sunlight into and trapping of solar energy in the atmosphere. Students intermix concepts associated with the greenhouse effect, global warming, and ozone depletion. Reinforcing the latter concept, a majority believe that the Sun radiates most of its energy as ultraviolet light. Students also describe inaccurate and incomplete trapping models, which include permanent trapping, trapping through reflection, and trapping of gases and pollution. Another reasoning difficulty involves the idea that Earths surface radiates energy primarily during the nighttime. The second research effort describes the distribution of chlorine on Mars measured by the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer GRS). The distribution of chlorine is heterogeneous across the surface, with a concentration of high chlorine centered over the Medusa Fossae Formation. The distribution of chlorine correlates positively with hydrogen and negatively with silicon and thermal inertia. Four mechanisms aeolian, volcanic, aqueous, and hydrothermal) are discussed as possible factors influencing the distribution of chlorine measured within the upper few tens of centimeters of the surface.