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Implementing an Explicit Approach to Teaching About the Nature of Science Inquiry. E. Brunsell, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, [email protected] Lessons Learned
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E. Brunsell, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, [email protected]
The activities, readings and explicit reflections used in this study clearly increased students’ understanding of specific facets of the nature of science inquiry. Many more students in the treatment group than the comparison group were able to describe how scientists used multiple methods (beyond just experimentation) during investigations. This is important because it may allow them to provide a more authentic view of science to their students. In addition, more students in the treatment group held an informed view of the reliance of science on evidence and the concept of durable, but tentative.
Although scores for both the treatment and comparison group improved, it is disappointing that a large number of students still view science as an isolated endeavor. Only a small number of students mentioned that scientific arguments undergo peer review, a critical component of science. Additionally, only slightly more than one-half of students indicated that scientists collaborate or interact with each other. Changing this misperception of science held by future teachers is critical. Emerging research shows that conflicts between individual identity and perceptions of science discourage many youth from considering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. For example, Diekman and her colleagues (2010) found that women and girls more often endorse communal goals than men and boys and “communal-goal endorsement negatively predicted interest in STEM careers, even when controlling for past experience and self-efficacy in science and mathematics. “ In this study, the communal nature of science inquiry was only explicitly reinforced during the readings. In future courses, it will be important to explicitly draw attention to interactions between scientists during activities and in-class discussions.
Finally, differences in STEBI-B scores for the PSTE scale hint that students in the treatment group may have a seen a slightly higher increase in their self-efficacy related to teaching science when compared to the comparison group. This may be caused by a more authentic understanding of the nature of science inquiry.
How will an explicit / reflective instructional approach improve elementary pre-service teachers’ understanding of the nature of science inquiry?
C&I 316: Teaching Science and Environmental Education is part of the “Clinical Community B” experience near the end of the elementary education program. Students usually take this course one or two semesters before student teaching. The primary goal of the course is to prepare students to teach science and environmental studies in the K-8 school setting. All 28 students in section one participated in study. Of these students, 26 were female and 2 were male. This gender ratio is typical of this course.
“String Theory” Activity: Students develop an evidence-based explanation for how this system works.
“Mystery Fossil” Activity: Students use a subset of fossil evidence to determine the structure of an animal.
This project explored how an explicit / reflective approach to teaching the nature of science inquiry in an elementary science methods course impacts student understanding of science inquiry concepts. The explicit / reflective approach provides effective science contexts for students to participate in followed by reflection on those contexts to build direct connections to content. This approach has been used successfully to teach concepts in college science and teacher education (science methods) courses (Schwartz and Crawford, 2004) . Instruction included individual reflection and group discussion of reflections. During the “explicit” portion of the intervention, students participated in hands-on activities that specifically model aspects of science inquiry. The activities were followed by selected readings that reinforce the concepts introduced by the activity. During the “reflective” portion of the intervention, students wrote and shared reflections regarding how their thinking changed related to the nature of science inquiry. This project focused on developing student understanding of aspects of the nature of science inquiry as described by Schwartz, Lederman & Lederman (2008), including using scientific questions, multiple methods of investigations, using evidence to develop explanations and peer review by the scientific community.
The primary data sources are pre- and post- test Views of Science Inquiry (VOSI) surveys (Schwartz, Lederman & Lederman, 2008). This survey is designed to elicit student perceptions through the use of open-ended questions. Data from the surveys will be analyzed according to procedures outlined by Schwartz, Lederman & Lederman and Schwartz (2007). Responses will be coded as either naïve or informed views in each of four categories. In addition, changes in student beliefs about teaching science will be measured using the STEBI-B survey (Enochs & Riggs, 1990). This survey measures student beliefs on two scales. For this study, the Personal Beliefs about Science Teaching Efficacy (PSTE) scale will be used. Data will be collected from the intervention group (Spring 2010) and compared with data from previous semesters of the course.
The Personal Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs (PSTE) scale on the STEBI-B instrument measures elementary pre-service teacher’s beliefs that they effectively teach science in the classroom (self-efficacy). Pre-instruction and post-instruction scores were compared using a t-test and found the differences were found to be statistically different. However, students in the treatment group did see a higher effect score (Cohen’s d) than the comparison group.
Questions: The VOSI survey did not provide clear data for analysis in this category.
Enochs, L., & Riggs, I. (1990). Further development of an elementary science teaching efficacy belief instrument: A preservice elementary scale. School Science and Mathematics, 90, 694-706.
Schwartz, R. S., & Crawford, B. A. (2004). Authentic Scientific Inquiry as a Context for Teaching Nature of Science: Identifying Critical Elements for Success. In Flick, L. & Lederman, N. (Eds). Scientific Inquiry and Nature of Science: Implications for Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Schwartz, R. S. (2007). Beyond Evolution: A thematic approach to teaching NOS in an undergraduate biology course. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA.
Schwartz, R. S., Lederman, N. G., & Lederman J.S. (2008) An Instrument to Assess Views of Science Inquiry: The VOSI Questionnaire. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Baltimore, MD.
Diekman, A.B., Brown, E.R., Johnston, A.M., & Clark, E.K. (2010, July 14) Seeking Congruity Between Goals and Roles: A New Look at Why Women Opt Out of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Careers. Psychological Science. E-publication ahead of print: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/07/14/0956797610377342.abstract
Theory / Use of Evidence: Comments were categorized as informed if they clearly identified that theories are based on evidence, testable, and tentative. Comments were categorized as emerging if not all of these descriptors were evident.
Investigations: Comments were categorized as emerging if they identified experimentation as only one method of investigation. Comments were categorized as informed if they clearly described different types of investigations.
Community: Comments were categorized as emerging if they mentioned collaboration or interaction between scientists. Comments were categorized as informed if they described a peer review process.
Treatment (n = 24) Comparison (n=146)
This project was funded by the UWO Center for Scholarly Teaching’s SOTL Starter Grant Program.