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Intercollege Programs for Science Education

Montana State University
P.O. Box 172805
Bozeman, MT 59717-2805

Tel: (406) 994-5679
Fax: (406) 994-5575
Location: 401 Linfield Hall


Dr. Peggy Taylor

1999 Capstone Project Abstracts

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Paul Anderson
Directed Inquiry: Motion Analysis and Electrical Circuits

The method of directed inquiry developed at the University of Washington lead students through the process of science rather than simply explaining facts. I investigated the effectiveness of the directed inquiry method of instruction as compared to classical instruction as outlined in the physics classroom. One of my classes received directed inquiry instruction as outlined in the Physics by Inquiry text and the other class received classical instruction on the same material. Pre-tests, post-tests, and an interest inventory were given to each class. Students in the directed inquiry classroom scored higher after the period of instruction and described a deeper understanding of the material.

Edward L Barry
Lab Report Format and its Effect on Student Achievement

This study involved the analysis of lab report format type on student achievement. The study analyzed the effect of requiring students to make the connection between classroom concepts and laboratory activities. In this study, the student was provided with a format that required them to draw on their non-lab activities to properly complete a lab report. Two sections of high school chemistry classes were studied during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years.

Rick Dees
Does Participation in a Science Research Project Give Students a More Positive Attitude Toward Science Education

This capstone project studied the effect that participating in a science research project had on student attitudes toward science education. The science research project involved collecting and analyzing data at a local stream in order to determine if the two communities, where the stream flowed, and the manmade conditions (e.g. agricultural practices, such as plowing and fertilizing. The use of items such as old car parts being used as rip rap, the dumping of local sewage into the stream, etc.) surrounding the waterway were affecting the health of stream. Earth Science and Chemistry students in grades 9-12 completed a questionnaire before and after participation in the research project in order to determine if a change in attitude had occurred.

Maureen S. Driscoll
Teaching and Using Concept Mapping as Summary Tools in High School Physical Science Classes

Ever thought you would like to use concept maps in your classes? Are you uncertain about where to begin? How much time will it take? How do you score them? Could you use them as an effective review method? Could they be used as an assessment tool? This project was a qualitative study of concept map teaching methods in an introductory chemistry and physics courses for sophomores. The positive and negative experiences of various techniques are detailed, along with students’ reflections about their mapping experiences.

Janet A. Erickson
The Use of Concept Mapping in the Assessment of Student Learning in the Middle School Classroom

This capstone project was conducted over a seven-month period from November 1998 through May 1999 with a group of 98 students enrolled in a seventh grade life science class. They range in age from 12-14 years old. Students were instructed in concept map construction through the context of seven learning units: Humans in Space, Cells, Bacteria and Viruses, Invertebrates, Cold-blooded Vertebrates, Warm-blooded Vertebrates, and Genetics. This study demonstrates the use of concept mapping with many visuals of student maps to illustrate: what a student already knows; formative assessment; student self-evaluation and metacognition; increased student responsibility for their own learning; challenging assessment; pictorial-based testing; brain-compatible learning; holistic learning; and summative assessment.

Beth Sterner Farrar
Impact of Portfolio Assessment Verses Traditional Assessment in Regards to Aptitude and Attitude in a High School General Chemistry Course

A two-group comparison study was used to determine if students who were assessed at eh end of each unit with an evaluative portfolio would score higher on a cumulative final exam when compared to their peers who were assessed traditionally at the end of each unit. During a time period of one semester, both groups were taught using identical cumulative examination at the end of the semester. Both groups completed an Assessment Beliefs and Confidence survey at the beginning and at the end of the study. The results were used to determine if attitudes in regards to assessment changed significantly after having been assessed with portfolios and to determine if there was a significant difference in terms of perceived confidence between the two groups.

Kerry Maureen Friend
Exploration of Three Science Instruction Methods with "At-Risk" Students

This project was done in science classes at a community school in California. The entire school population is considered “at-risk.” Students have been expelled from their regular home district for a variety of reasons, including truancy and legal difficulties. Some students were referred to the school by parents or the probation department. This study was done to determine how to best teach science to this unique population. The study included a questionnaire designed to assess student needs and preferences for various stimuli as they affect learning. The remainder of the study focused on methods used for science instruction to determine which method or methods appear to have the greatest success rate with “at-risk” students. Science instructional strategies considered in the study were traditional “book-work,” step-by-step labs, and inquiry labs.

Jonathan A. Hanson
M.I. Students in My Physics Class

This project is my endeavor to determine the levels of success students with varied intelligences, as defined by Howard Gardner, have in my physics class. The project is limited to an analysis of two of his eight defined intelligences, math-logical and verbal-linguistic. The physics focus for this project is Newton’s Laws and the understanding of forces and motion.

Melissa Henthorn
The Impacts of a Block Schedule on 8th Grade Science Classes at C.S. Porter Middle School

This project was done to determine the effect of block scheduling on a middle school science classes 1998-1999. The C.S. Porter Middle School in Missoula, MT follows a traditional seven-period day with each period approximately 50 minutes long. The traditional 50 minute period schedule was used the first quarter of the 1998-1999 school year. During the second quarter, classes were taught using a block schedule. The classes were 100 minutes long and met on alternative days with a few variations. The data collected was a compilation of interviews, personal journals, surveys, literature review, and student grades. The collected data was used to answer the question- What are the impacts of a block schedule on eighth grade science instruction at C.S. Porter Middle School?

Kevin L. Klawonn
Teaching the Principles of Magnets and Electromagnets with a Directed Inquiry Method

The focus of this action research project was to develop and assess a directed inquiry unit on magnets and electromagnets that can be used in an 8th or 9th grade physical science class. This method of instruction has the students working on a series of activities that slowly develop a model of understanding. As the students progress, the individual activities center on a particular aspect of magnetism and electromagnetism. Then, students carefully analyzing the results and answer specific questions that help in the development of their understanding.

Nancy E. Males
How Does Portfolio Assessment in Conjunction with Traditional Assessment Impact Student Achievement and/or Attitude in High School Chemistry?

Chemistry students on the accelerated block schedule were compared to determine whether of not the use of portfolio assessment, in conjunction with traditional assessment, would significantly impact scientific achievement and/or scientific attitude. In this study, students in the fall were given a pre- and post science attitude survey, and assessed in traditional ways, including a comprehensive final exam. Students in the spring were given the same survey and exam, but their assessments were expanded to include portfolio assessment.

Wayne L. Mangold
Using Inquiry To Learn the Phases of the Moon

I will discuss the inquiry technique used by Lillian McDermott to teach phases of the moon to 9th graders. The McDermott method of inquiry was meant for college students but I have modified the technique to be used by 9th graders at Plevna High School. I will talk about the success and failures of this inquiry technique.

David W. McDonald
Using 3-D Graphing in High School Physical Science Classes

This project researches improvements in high school students’ graphing skills by presenting three-dimensional phenomena and allowing them to construct 3-D graphs. Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry students were instructed in graphing techniques, with Microsoft Excel computer spreadsheets, and in 3-D concepts.

To make science and mathematics more interesting and to improve student understanding of data in 3-D and to improve their graphing skills, students were engaged in real-world problems. For astronomy there was a crater-making activity and students made use of astronomy data to generate 3-D Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams. The chemistry students found patterns in a 3-D graph of the Periodic Table and physics students developed methods, and collected data of light intensities, temperature fluctuations, and radiation levels from a uranium rock sample.

Joy-Lyn McDonald
The Effects of a Student-Grading Process on Freshmen Physical Science Laboratory Reports

Many teachers are faced with a lack to time to effectively evaluate the numerous lab reports written by their students. Other teachers are faced with students who do not respond to their suggestions and notes on a graded report by improving future lab reports. When I used a student-grading process, I found an improvement in the quality of the reports without a significant investment of class-time. This process addresses the goals of scientific literacy—developing knowledge, process skills, and values in science—and can be adapted to most any teaching situation or teaching style. The student-grading process is easily learned. In my hands-on capstone presentation, individuals attending the symposium will grade actual lab reports. Take time to learn how to save some of your valuable time.

The symposium paper session will include a hands-on collection of 3-D data and report the success of students working with three-dimensional material.

Josy McLean
The Use of the Vee Diagram to Improve Student Laboratory Analysis Skills

Students in first year high school biology classes use Vee Diagrams to guide them in writing a formal lab report. The Vee is used as a guiding tool in inquiry based labs to develop student’s experimental design and data analysis skills. Project data in the form of average percentage grades on certain lab reports done over the past 3 years was analyzed. Sample student papers from current year student portfolios were used to demonstrate progress over the course of the year.

John W. Miller
Assessing the Abilities of High School Biology Students to Identify Experimental Variables and Controls

New science standards as stated by the National Science Foundation place an emphasis on inquiry-type teaching methodologies and investigations in order to improve students’ skills in the area of the application of the scientific method for problem-solving and critical thinking. In analyzing my teaching I’ve always considered myself to be an “inquiry-type” instructor, yet when I asked my students to explain what the controls and variables were in the various labs and investigations presented to them, most were unable to do so. In my Capstone Research I assessed the ability of my sophomore biology students to identify variables and experimental controls in self-designed investigations as well as in narratives and news articles about research studies. Preliminary findings of my research indicate that the students do well at listing variables yet struggle with identifying and setting up controls. In my presentation I will show specific examples of the students’ responses to questions about variables and controls, present the methods used to assess the students, and analyze whether of not they made progress over the course of the school year.

Randall C. Mogen
Using Calculator-Based Laboratory Technology in a Biology Classroom

The TI-83 graphing calculator and Vernier probeware provide an opportunity for an approach that integrates technology in the classroom. This Capstone Project investigates the value of calculator-based laboratories in an Advanced Biology cell respiration lab. Comparisons are made between outcomes of students who complete a traditional mechanical lab and those who complete the same lab using TI-83 graphing calculators. Teacher observations, student answers to lab questions, and student surveys provide the basis for analysis. The results illustrate some of the benefits, such as collection and analysis of data, as well as stumbling blocks of utilizing this technology in a biology classroom.

Kelly R. Morrow
Does Self-knowledge of Multiple Intelligences Improve Student Performance in High School Biology?

I taught and assessed a cell unit in my standard biology classes using multiple intelligence methods. I taught one of my classes about MI and their own intelligence profiles before teaching the unit, and didn’t teach my other class bout MI. I then used the same methods to teach and assess both classes, and then compared student performance for the two groups.

Marjorie L. Robbins
The Effect of Student Self-Awareness of Multiple Intelligencies on Achievement, Motivation, and Self Concept

This is an Action Research project documenting and interpreting the achievement, motivation and self-concept of members of two ninth-grade physical science classes before and after self-identification of Multiple Intelligences. A unit on chemical bonding provided the raw data for the research. Student surveys, individual and class grades, and student journals were analyzed in order to draw conclusions.

Lisa Rogers Rubright
Using Concept Maps in the Chemistry Classroom: Misconceptions and Learning

The research reported in this paper was designed to investigate the use of concept maps in a high school chemistry class and their link to the identification of misconceptions and learning. Three questions were addressed: (a) Can concept maps be used to identify misconceptions? (b) Are they an effective strategy for measuring student understanding? (c) What implications can this have on my teaching? Data was collected on 2 general chemistry classes. It was shown that concept maps can be used to identify misconceptions; they can effectively measure students understanding, and can be an effective teaching strategy.

Peggy S. Taylor
Teaching With Case Studies in High School Chemistry

Case method teaching, pioneered at Harvard Business School has been shown to be successful in teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in such disciplines as medicine, business, and law. Success in biology courses, genetics, and even elementary subjects has been reported. Faculty report increased development of critical thinking and reasoning skills in a meaningful context through connection of in-class learning with real-world situations.

This study examines the use of a series of “cases” in regular high school chemistry classes. The main focus of the study was to determine if reported benefits of case method teaching apply to high school level courses. Evaluation of appropriate cases for chemistry, analysis of presentation method, and determination of educational benefits were performed.

Shannon M. Walden
Test Protocol and Achievement for Males and Females in a Biology Classroom

Student achievement in biology content tests was examined under different test protocols or conditions. Students in three sophomore biology classes were tested (a) as individuals; (b) in randomly assigned groups of three students; or (c) with a student selected peer partner. All tests were publisher provided chapter quizzes with teacher constructed short answer questions. An ANOVA analysis was done with nine test scores completed with varied testing conditions, to determine if test protocol influenced student achievement by gender. Two student surveys, fall and spring, were done to determine individual student preference for each of the three testing conditions.

Martin Wells
Changing Students' Conceptions of Force and Motion

It has been well documented that many students arrive in the high school physics classroom with misconceptions concerning the relationship between the forces on an object and its state of motion. The students in this study, a group of high school seniors in a conceptual physics class, were no different. What is not as well documented is how to change those misconceptions. In this study, a conceptual change approach was applied in the classroom. The misconceptions proved to be highly resistant to correction, although the study shows that some progress was made in creating cognitive change.