Montana State University
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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

2002 Capstone Project Abstracts

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Ronald Abarta
The Impact of Teaching Self-Assessment Techniques on Student Remediation and Retention

This study evaluated the effect of a self-assessment method employed by high school students. Through this process, called Group Test Self-Assessment (GESA), students learned to assess errors made during testing and to correct them with supporting justification. Corrections were accompanied by a statement of justification (what was not known, what is now understood) to receive maximum credit for their effort. Corrected questions added point value to the test grade. Students then retested three weeks later to demonstrate retention of key concepts. The validity of this remediation was then measured against this retention.

Andrea Shannon Bowen
The Effects of Learning for Mastery on Student Attitudes and Performance in General Chemistry

Changes in student attitude and achievement in general chemistry were examined during the implementation of a Learning for Mastery program. Students were surveyed to determine their areas of perceived weakness prior to the implementation to direct the content appropriately. During the study, students were immersed in learning strategies that included teaching material in several basic phases; providing objectives of the lesson and the expected level of performance for each at the beginning of each unit of study; providing opportunities for structured, guided and independent practice. Short diagnostic tests were used to provide supplementary instruction to help student overcome problem areas before the final unit examination. Throughout the study, students were surveyed to gauge their attitudes about the class and the learning for mastery approach. Academic progress was monitored by recording the number of skills each student attempted to master during the unit and the corresponding score on the unit examination.

Peter Bregand
A Consideration of Test Item Formats for English Language Learners in Chemistry

This research examined assessments used with English language learner students of Korean descent and English fluent students. Achievement on multiple-choice and matching items showed no significant difference. ELL students as a whole showed no significant difference in achievement between the two test types. However, in another test with a matched set of test items of the two types, the lower achieving sub-group within the ELL group did significantly better on multiple-choice than on matching. The high achieving subgroup within the EF group did significantly better on the matching. The other subgroups showed no significant differences. Performances on diagram-based multiple-choice items compared to entirely word-based multiple-choice items in unmatched sets were similarly evaluated within and between the two groups and the differences were statistically insignificant. Students’ perceptions of the diagram-based multiple-choice test items were assessed in a survey and showed a generally positive attitude toward coverage and understanding of material and test item clarity. Perceptions of difficulty and affinity for the test items showed a normal distribution of responses in most levels of both groups..

Pamela S. Duncan
Impacting Students’ Attitudes and Values Toward Environmental Preservation through Field Experiences and Reading Environmental Literature

During this study, the relationship between fieldwork in ecology, reading environmental literature and student attitudes towards environmental protection were examined. This study was conducted with high school students at Mundelein High School in Mundelein, Illinois. Prior to the treatment, the students were surveyed to determine initial attitudes towards various aspects of environmental protection. The students then engaged in ecological fieldwork at Indiana Dunes State Park and read three different environmentally relevant excerpts. During the treatment, the student viewpoints on the readings were gauged. The resultant analyses of these viewpoints were compared to determine attitudinal changes or developments in environmental values..

Leslie Giffen
Does Student Participation in Written (Electronic) Discussion Coupled with Whole Class Discussion Increase Student Understanding of Science Concepts?.

This action research project examined student understanding of two abstract concepts: water quality and the reasons for the seasons. The classroom strategy used in this study centered on the effectiveness of classroom discussion. Discussion took the form of asynchronous electronic discussion groups or as whole class discussion. Analysis showed that teacher skill in discussion most influenced student understanding.

Mary Goebel
The Effects of Guided Inquiry in Learning the Processes of Transcription and Translation as Exhibited by Sophomore Cell Biology Students

A guided inquiry unit was designed and implemented into four sophomore cell biology classes. The purpose of this study was to determine if students instructed with guided inquiry were better prepared to describe and demonstrate the processes of transcription and translation and what their confidence level was prior to assessment. Students were divided into groups of four or worked with a single partner to determine the effect group size had on achievement. A comparison was then made between demonstration assessment scores and previous traditional test scores. It was found that test scores of all students working in both groups of four and with a partner increased as a result of the guided inquiry activity..

Jody Hurd
Is Formative Assessment Related to Summative Test Performance with an Inquiry Based Lesson?

Effective communication of ideas between student and teacher is essential to inquiry based instruction. This communication becomes problematic when class size prevents student and teacher from conversing as much as necessary. What is the best way to facilitate this communication in classes of eighteen to twenty-four students? Inquiry-based lessons on igneous and sedimentary rocks were administered to five classes of ninth grade Earth Science students, each consisting of 18 to 24 learners. Formative assessment, in the form of a Defining Features Matrix classroom assessment (CAT), was implemented to enhance communication between student and teacher during the lessons. The CAT’s effectiveness was evaluated through an analysis of summative test scores and a student survey.

Thomas C. Huston III
Comparing Rates of Retention Between Guided Inquiry and Traditional Styles of Classroom Instruction

This study compared the amount of information retained by students taught using guided inquiry based methods and traditional methods. The research considered confidence levels of students after they have discovered scientific concepts using guided inquiry methods of learning. The students in two chemistry classes were asked to respond to self confidence surveys and student questionnaires. Surveys asked about confidence levels prior to assessments to determine if inquiry based learning helped students become confident in their ability to use the scientific concepts discovered with inquiry units. Students experienced guided inquiry and traditional methods. A unit test was given at the end of each chapter and again one month later. The two tests were compared to see if the amount of material retained changed when using guided inquiry or traditional methods..

Kevin T. Kapanka
Using Constructivism with the Laws of Motion.

Constructivism states that people learn by making connections to what they already know. This action research project involves providing structured time for the students to build connections between classroom instruction and personal experiences through group discussions, projects and questionnaires. The data for this study includes a questionnaire in which the students provided answers and explanations for questions on the laws of motion before and after the activities. The quiz scores from two quizzes that were administered during the project and interviews with students in both groups at the end of the study. Students’ examination scores and the quality of responses were compared to determine the impact of constructivism-based instruction.

Robin Lindsay Kent
Teaching the Scientific Method to Seventh Graders

A Learning Cycle approach, utilizing an ecological field trip as the discovery phase, was initiated as a way of teaching science process methodology. By mid-year all seventh grade students were prepared for a school science fair. Formative assessment guided the teacher through direct instruction. Pre- and post- quizzes on the scientific method were given. Some students were interviewed to ascertain the effects of the two methods of instruction. All students completed a confidence survey at both the beginning and end of the 2001-02 school year..

Lloyd Magnuson
Building Cognitive Models of the Earth, Moon, and Sun Relationships through the Use of Directed Inquiry

This capstone presentation explores the use of directed inquiry as a teaching method. The feasibility of implementing inquiry driven curriculum into large classes that have little or no experience in inquiry is a dilemma that many teachers face today. Inquiry may be one approach that will help students grasp concepts in a more complete and usable model. The discussion will cover the introduction of directed inquiry to students that have little previous awareness of this method, the effectiveness of inquiry in the large classroom, and the assessment method of students’ final cognitive models..

Deanna M. Mazanek
Does the Study of Local Geology Improve Student Confidence and Understanding of Geomorphic Processes in a High School Earth Systems 2 Classroom?

This action research study focused on a group of students traditionally unsuccessful in high school science. In an Earth System 2 class, students studied earthquakes, volcanoes, and erosion and then were asked to apply this knowledge to local geomorphology. The purpose of this study was to determine if the direct connection improved their confidence about knowledge and understanding of concepts. Analysis of data from knowledge probes, confidence surveys, frequent knowledge and question checks, student participation tallies, student interviews and traditional exams determined if local application significantly affect confidence and learning.

Todd Morstein
Teaching Thermodynamics with Internet Activities

This study considered the effect of teaching thermodynamics to high school chemistry students using interactive guides developed for the Internet. Instructional materials were developed for the Internet and allowed student access from school or home. The instructor did not do any lectures for thermodynamics. All traditional instruction was replaced with Internet activities. Surveys were done before and after instruction to gauge student opinion on the Internet model of instruction. The Internet class was compared with a traditional lecture class in terms of success on a thermodynamics unit exam.

Mellissa A. Newman
Constructing a Portfolio in the Earth Science Classroom: Its Impact on Attitude and Concept Retention

This study evaluates the efficacy of the process of portfolio construction when used as an assessment tool in the place of more traditional methods. Students in a freshman level Earth Science class were asked to complete a portfolio on a unit involving Plate Tectonics, Earthquakes and Volcanoes and their relationship to Montana. The portfolio, completed in lieu of a semester test, included various performance type assessments. This unit was compared with a more traditionally designed unit of Meteorology. The main focus of this study was compared students’ attitude between the two units. The students were given a pre-test, a post-test immediately following the unit, and the same post-test one month later. The students also participated in interviews, feedback forms and surveys. The complete study was conducted over two full quarters or about 20 weeks from October 2001 to March 2002..

Chris Ottey
The Effects of Peer Teaching in the Middle School Science Classroom

Two sections of sixth grade general science students were involved in small and whole group peer teaching over the 2000-01 and 2001-02 school years. This study examined various peer teaching models and whether students have a higher level of achievement and involvement when they are involved in teaching science material to peers, compared to when they learn from others. Unit tests, interviews, surveys and colleague evaluations were used to describe impact on student achievement and student involvement.

Robert Pendzick
A Study of Changing Methods of Classroom Discipline

In an alternative high school classroom of mathematics and science, discipline methods were changed. This study found that innovations produced increased student work production, but did not change the frequency of off-task behaviors displayed by the students..

Mary Slack
Technology: Is It the Tool Needed to Make the Learning Connection?

The focus of this study was to determine how the use of technology affects students’ attitude and learning in the high school earth science classroom. Two groups of students participated in this project. The same curriculum was used in both courses but the delivery method was different. The General Earth Science course had about one-third of the material taught using some form of technology. The Earth Science Technology course on the other hand had approximately two-thirds of the material taught using a variety of forms of technology. Minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, and earthquakes were the four units that were used in this study. The focus areas were: a) participation in a weekly on-line discussion board, b) using computer programs to study earth related phenomena, c) utilization of an on-line textbook, and d) examining earth processes through real-time data computer activities. In general, the measures used to compare performance in the two courses showed no significant difference. This is noteworthy since the Earth Science Technology course included a higher percentage of students with a history of low academic performance.

Michelle L. Snyder
The Relationship Between a New Freshman Science Class Designed to Address Oregon State Science Standards and Student Scores on the Oregon Certificate of Initial Mastery Science Standardized Test Scores

In this research a comparison of Oregon Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM) science standardized test scores was done between two groups of students. Students in Group A were not exposed to the newly designed science curriculum before taking the CIM science test, while the students in Group B were required to take a freshman science course designed to address the Oregon state standards for science. The standardized test each group of students took was the Oregon CIM science test. Scores on the Oregon CIM test between the two groups were compared using a t-test. Overall GPA of the two groups was also compared to assess academic differences between the two groups. Student surveys were utilized to determine if the students felt that the standards based freshman science curriculum prepared them for the Oregon CIM test and if there were other advantages to the curriculum as well..

Michelle Thomas
The Impact of a Structured Laboratory Experience Teaching Method on Student’s Ability to Evaluate, Synthesize and Analyze

This study used a structured laboratory experience with DNA transcription and translation to determine if the experience influences students’ ability to evaluate, synthesize and analyze. Structured laboratory experience is a type of inquiry learning. The research incorporated this method of instruction in a seventh grade life science class. Students learned the basic process of DNA transcription and translation.

Kerby C. Winters
Student Perception of Science and Performance While Using Texas Instruments Calculator Based Laboratory, TI-83 Graphing Calculator, Vernier Probes and Graphical Analysis Software in a High School Biology Class

High school biology students were given the opportunity to expand two major units of study, cell diffusion and ecology, by using Texas Instruments and Vernier technology. The purpose of this capstone was to determine if the integration of technology and the additional time and expense resulted in a positive increase in student interest and performance, as well as the effects on teacher attitudes and actions. Student interest in science was determined using minute papers and technology surveys given before, during and after the technology units. Student performance was determined by performing statistical analysis of 2001-02 students’ test scores compared to those of students in past years. Any change in teacher attitude was determined using administration and staff evaluations.