Research experience and inquiry: Uses and effects of authentic environments in science education

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Within the last twenty years, reform documents have been penned in order to define and codify standards for improved science education practices. A major theme within these documents is the attainment of student understanding of the nature of science through tasks that more closely resemble how science really works. My research deals with two specific approaches to authenticity in science education: inquiry-based teaching in middle-school and high-school and a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program in chemical biology. Through my research, I have made four assertions about authenticity in science education: (1) Educators' research experiences lend credibility to students' own science education experiences, (2) Undergraduate students give ownership priority over science-like activities when assessing authenticity, (3) Educators need support to implement authentic science activities (including inquiry) into the classroom setting, and (4) Students (and educators) at all levels benefit from experiences with authentic science practices.
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Graduate School ETD Form 9 (01/07) PURDUE UNIVERSITY GRADUATE SCHOOL Thesis Acceptance This is to certify that the thesis prepared By Jason Lee Steward Entitled RESEARCH EXPERIENCE AND INQUIRY: USES AND EFFECTS OF AUTHENTIC ENVIRONMENTS IN SCIENCE EDUCATION Complies with University regulations and meets the standards of the Graduate School for originality and quality Doctor of Philosophy For the degree of Final examining committee members Gabriela C. Weaver , Chair Jon M. Harbor Marcy H. Towns George M. Bodner Approved by Major Professor(s): Gabriela C. Weaver Approved by Head of Graduate Program: Robert E. Wild Date of Graduate Program Head's Approval: 7/20/07 RESEARCH EXPERIENCE AND INQUIRY: USES AND EFFECTS OF AUTHENTIC ENVIRONMENTS IN SCIENCE EDUCATION A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of Purdue University by Jason Lee Steward In partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy August 2007 Purdue University West Lafayette, Indiana UMI Number: 3291067 UMI Microform 3291067 Copyright 2008 by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code. ProQuest Information and Learning Company 300 North Zeeb Road P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 ii Dedicated to my wife Julianne Michele and my son James Jeremy Jay iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank the members of the multiple iterations of the Weaver Group: Cianan Russell, Erik Epp, Kermin Martinez-Hernandez, Kellie Green, Katie Jennings, Chris Ashmore-Good, and Wonreyon Cho. Without your support, encouragement, camaraderie, and general willingness to put up with me, I might not have made it this far. Graduate school is no fun alone. Thanks also goes to the members of my committee: Jon Harbor and Marcy Towns for their suggestions, encouragement, and willingness to be a part of my committee. Jon especially for going out of his way to make time while busily working between states and institutions. George Bodner for allowing me to be a part of his group while the Weaver Group was in its infancy and for his helpful advice on multiple occasions. And of course, I would not have made it without the exceeding patience and unwavering support of my advisor, Gabriela C. Weaver. There were plenty of reasons – not to mention multiple opportunities – to allow me to fail and give up on graduate school. Other advisors probably would have. Over the last six years, she has learned through many trials and my numerous errors to strike the right balance between being my colleague, psychiatrist, boss, mentor, friend, and advisor. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS............................................................................................ iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ..............................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES ..................................................................................................... viii LIST OF FIGURES....................................................................................................... x ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................xii CHAPTER ONE - AUTHENTICITY IN SCIENCE EDUCATION....................................... 1 The Meaning of Authenticity in Science Education........................................... 2 CHAPTER TWO - GENERAL METHODOLOGICAL & THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS...................................................................................................................... 4 Mixed Methods Methodology ............................................................................ 4 Methodological Framework ............................................................................... 6 Types of Research .............................................................................................. 6 Role of Researcher ............................................................................................. 7 CHAPTER THREE - INTRODUCTION............................................................................... 10 Many levels of inquiry...................................................................................... 12 Teacher Preparation and Research Experience ................................................ 14 Elements of Inquiry .......................................................................................... 17 Purposes of E-2020........................................................................................... 18 Program History ............................................................................................... 20 Program Structure............................................................................................. 21 v Page CHAPTER FOUR – METHODS, RESULTS, AND ANALYSIS .............................. 25 Data Collection................................................................................................. 25 Quantitative Data.............................................................................................. 28 Measuring Inquiry ...................................................................................... 28 Completeness of Data Set........................................................................... 31 Inquiry Activities in the Classroom............................................................ 32 Student Attitudes and Inquiry..................................................................... 35 Teachers’ Definitions of Inquiry ................................................................ 45 Qualitative Data................................................................................................ 51 Teachers’ Roles in the Classroom .............................................................. 52 Authentic Research Experience.................................................................. 52 Student/Teacher Control............................................................................. 54 Barriers to Inquiry ...................................................................................... 55 Ideas............................................................................................................ 56 Time Constraints ........................................................................................ 57 Materials and Resources............................................................................. 60 Overcoming Barriers .................................................................................. 61 Limitations........................................................................................................ 64 CHAPTER FIVE – CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS ................................... 65 PART II – THE CHEMICAL BIOLOGY REU PROGRAM...................................... 68 CHAPTER SIX – INTRODUCTION ........................................................................ 69 REU Programs as Authentic Science ............................................................... 69 Purpose of the Chemical Biology REU Program ............................................. 70 Structure of the Program .................................................................................. 71 My Role in the Program ................................................................................... 73 My Role as Researcher and Evaluator.............................................................. 74 REU Program Evaluation Questions .......................................................... 75 REU Program Research Questions............................................................. 75 CHAPTER SEVEN – METHODS AND PARTICIPANTS........................................ 76 Data Collection................................................................................................. 76 Population......................................................................................................... 76 Previous Research Experience ................................................................... 80 CHAPTER EIGHT – EVALUATION DATA............................................................ 82 vi Page Reasons for Applying to an REU Program ...................................................... 82 Other REU Programs........................................................................................ 83 The Meaning of Chemical Biology .................................................................. 84 Role of REU Program in Educational/Career Goals ........................................ 89 Student Attitudes Toward the Program ............................................................ 92 Post-Program Data............................................................................................ 95 Faculty Participant Interviews.......................................................................... 97 Purpose of the REU Program ..................................................................... 97 Program Activities...................................................................................... 98 Comparison Between Summers ................................................................. 99 New Professors’ Views of the REU ......................................................... 100 Possible Changes to the Program ............................................................. 100 Other Participants’ Point of View ............................................................ 101 CHAPTER NINE – REU DATA REGARDING RESEARCH QUESTIONS......... 103 Elements of Inquiry ........................................................................................ 104 Student Participation in Lab ........................................................................... 106 Student Participation in Research................................................................... 109 What Defines a Scientist?............................................................................... 110 Am I a Scientist? ............................................................................................ 112 High School Science Teachers ....................................................................... 118 Undergraduate Professors............................................................................... 120 Discussion....................................................................................................... 122 CHAPTER TEN – INQUIRY, REU, AND AUTHENTICITY ................................. 124 Authenticity Serving Multiple Populations .................................................... 124 Assertions Based on My Research ................................................................. 127 LIST OF REFERENCES ........................................................................................... 131 APPENDICES Appendix A – Detailed data for REU participant institutions........................ 136 Appendix B – Institutions to which students indicated they had applied in 2005 and 2006 .......................................................................................... 139 vii Page Appendix C – Interview guide for the E-2020 post-program teacher interviews ................................................................................................. 141 Appendix D – Interview guides for REU program ........................................ 142 VITA........................................................................................................................... 144 viii LIST OF TABLES Table Page 4.1 Summary of E-2020 data sources........................................................................... 25 4.2 Summary characteristics and demographics of participants used for quantitative scales................................................................................................... 31 4.3 Correlations between student-observed activities and TDIS.................................. 33 4.4 Correlations between CIS and student post-school year attitude statements along with partial correlations taking into account pre-school year attitude statements ............................................................................................................... 37 4.5 Coefficients for the multiple regression model ...................................................... 40 4.6 Coefficients for the multiple regression model excluding pre-test SAS ................ 42 4.7 Coefficients for the multiple regression model predicting the pre-test SAS.......... 43 4.8 Number of teachers who defined inquiry using ideas found in the elements of inquiry ................................................................................................................ 47 4.9 Cumulative percentages of teachers who described inquiry using elements of inquiry ................................................................................................................ 48 4.10 Descriptive statistics for means of elements of inquiry........................................ 50 6.1 General structure of out-of-lab activities scheduled during the REU program................................................................................................................... 72 7.1 Percentages of students within various demographic groups................................. 77 ix Table Page 7.2 Selectivity of student participant institutions ......................................................... 78 7.3 Carnegie basic classifications for home institutions of REU students along with the number of participants from each classification....................................... 79 7.4 Percentages of student participants within various demographic groups with previous research experience.......................................................................... 81 8.1 Student participants’ plans during the first week of the REU program ................. 90 8.2 Student participants’ plans during the last week of the REU program .................. 91 8.3 Descriptive statistics of student responses to attitude questions ............................ 93 9.1 Elements of inquiry as used within Likert scale items on questionnaire ............. 104 9.2 Descriptive statistics for the paired-samples t-test comparing elements of inquiry between high school and undergraduate labs........................................... 108 9.3 Words and ideas used for each characteristic type in students’ definitions of scientists ............................................................................................................... 112 9.4 Percentages of students with and without research experience who consider themselves scientists............................................................................................. 117 9.5 Percentages of male and female student who consider themselves scientists...... 117 x LIST OF FIGURES Figure Page 3.1 The elements of inquiry.......................................................................................... 18 4.1 Data collection during the timeline of the program................................................ 26 4.2 Questionnaire items comprising the teacher derived inquiry score........................ 29 4.3 Questionnaire items comprising the student derived inquiry score........................ 30 4.4 Items comprising the Science Attitude Scale ......................................................... 39 9.1 Comparison of the elements of inquiry between high school labs and undergraduate labs................................................................................................ 107 9.2 Comparison of the elements of inquiry between undergraduate and REU research................................................................................................................. 110 9.3 Percentages of total participants’ responses to whether they view themselves, high school teachers, and undergraduate professors as scientists .............................................................................................................. 113 9.4 Attributes students believed they needed before they would become scientists ............................................................................................................... 116 9.5 General themes found in students’ explanations concerning why high school teachers are scientists ................................................................................ 119 9.6 General themes found in students’ explanations concerning why high school teachers are not scientists ......................................................................... 120 9.7 General themes found in students’ explanations concerning why undergraduate professors are scientists................................................................ 121 xi Figure Page 9.8 General themes found in students’ explanations concerning why undergraduate professors are not scientists.......................................................... 121 10.1 Hypothetical flow chart illustrating levels of science education........................ 125 xii ABSTRACT Steward, Jason Lee, Ph.D., Purdue University, August 2007. Research Experience and Authenticity in Science Education. Major Professor: Gabriela C. Weaver. Within the last twenty years, reform documents have been penned in order to define and codify standards for improved science education practices. A major theme within these documents is the attainment of student understanding of the nature of science through tasks that more closely resemble how science really works. My research deals with two specific approaches to authenticity in science education: inquiry-based teaching in middle-school and high-school and a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program in chemical biology. Through my research, I have made four assertions about authenticity in science education: 1.Educators’ research experiences lend credibility to students’ own science education experiences, 2.Undergraduate students give ownership priority over science-like activities when assessing authenticity, 3.Educators need support to implement authentic science activities (including inquiry) into the classroom setting, and 4. Students (and educators) at all levels benefit from experiences with authentic science practices. PUBLICATION xiii Abstract for paper to be submitted for publication Although inquiry has been codified in the standards as a necessary tool of science education, it is not universally used within science classrooms. Multiple programs have been implemented to reach inservice and preservice practitioners. The E-2020 teacher enrichment program placed inservice secondary science educators in functioning science research laboratories during the summer to witness first-hand how inquiry, as a teaching tool, fits into the overall processes of science. Quantitative data from the study revealed that positive attitudes toward science were related to inquiry- oriented activities in the classroom. Qualitatively, through interviews and questionnaires, teachers were able to relate their ideas about inquiry, the barriers to inquiry they faced, and how they were able to integrate it within their classrooms. 1 CHAPTER ONE – AUTHENTICITY IN SCIENCE EDUCATION Within the last twenty years, reform documents have been penned in order to define and codify standards for improved science education practices (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1989, 1993; National Research Council [NRC], 1996, 2000). Much of the impetus for these changes was the lack of science literacy within the population as a whole. A major theme within these documents is the attainment of student understanding of the nature of science through tasks that more closely resemble how science really works. However, with the use of “simple inquiry tasks” which b
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