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

2003 Capstone Project Abstracts

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Cyndie Beale
Taking Action to Determine and Address Student Misconceptions in Genetics

The purpose of this project was twofold: to determine some common student pre-conceptions and misconceptions in genetics, and to use this information to alter my teaching style to correct preconceptions. A series of pre-tests were developed to ascertain student understanding of different genetic and cell division concepts. Common pre-conceptions were easily determined from the pre-test responses. The same pre-tests were given at the end of each sub-unit to monitor possible changes in student understanding. While some pre-conceptions were difficult to correct, others were corrected. Students preferred hands-on learning, laboratory activities and small group discussion over other methods and teaching styles considered. Pre-tests were an effective way to determine student pre-conceptions. The amount of time spent covering concepts in detail led to greater student understanding in genetics, but reduced time allowed for other topics.

John Scott Beaver
Interaction of Agriculture and Wildlife Recreation Activities into the High School Biology Curriculum to Enhance Student Interest in the Sciences and Science-Related Careers

Students express high interest in their everyday agriculture and wildlife recreation activities. The purpose of this project was to see if some of that interest and enthusiasm could be transferred to the biology classroom. Eighteen biology students were given a pre-project science interest/attitude survey. Then several agriculture and wildlife recreation activities were integrated into the biology curriculum. A post-project science interest/attitude survey was administered and statistical comparison was performed between the pre- and post-survey results. Overall, the project supported the hypothesis of improved interest in the classroom as reflected in data. However, this was a general conclusion. There were indicators that did not reflect this transfer of interest.

Amy Berg
The Effect of Using Vee Maps to Prepare 6th Grade Students for Laboratory Activities

Over the past twelve years of this teacher’s sixth grade students’ lives, they have received little to no science instruction in school. These students were expected to write a clear lab report communicating what the lab activity was about. How can this task be accomplished if only a few students are prepared? This project used Vee Maps to help prepare students for laboratory activities. By incorporating Vee Maps, the teacher was able to determine how teaching changed over the course of the year. This study suggests more organizational skills, enthusiasm, patience, and understanding were gained with each Vee Map. In turn, the students reported they were more comfortable in the lab, confident in their ability and organized in the classroom and laboratory. By using Vee Maps, the teacher was able to see the connections students made in and out of the classroom laboratory setting.

Erik Berg
The Effect of Student-Designed Inquiry on Teaching and Learning in My Science Classroom: An Action Research Project

Ideally, students learn and reinforce both science content and scientific inquiry skills through laboratory investigations designed to model scientific inquiry. Students designed and conducted experiments to answer questions in a scientific manner. Careful consideration of the guiding question for the investigation and preparation for inevitable downtime are crucial to the success of student-designed inquiry. The frequency with which questions were asked and the quality of those questions increased over the course of the study. Students were engaged during our conversations and during the implementation of their self-designed procedures. Through this process of differentiated instruction, reaching all levels of students in each class, was achieved. The goal of teaching in a more constructivist manner during this process was achieved. Action research also fostered the ability for the teacher to be self-critical which will have lasting effects on teaching.

Nikki Bethune
Vee Diagrams: An Action Research Project on its Implementation in 9th Grade Physical Science

Gowin invented Vee diagrams to help people understand how knowledge is constructed. In this study, the Vee diagram was utilized as a lab report to help the teacher and the students realize how what they are learning relates to what they already know. This action research project was both challenging and enlightening as it encouraged students to take responsibility for their learning and developed a new role for the teacher as a facilitator.

Bruce A. Bourne
Will Inquiry-Based Lab Exercises Using Familiar Substances Change Student Attitudes About the Value of Chemistry for Everyday Living

A high school chemistry student survey indicated that only half of my students felt an understanding of chemistry would help them in everyday life. A disconnect existed between the chemistry the students learned in the classroom and the chemistry in their everyday life. This project had students do inquiry-based lab exercises with familiar substances to determine if a connection might be made to link chemistry class topics to everyday life experiences. Pre and post surveys, questionnaires, a teacher journal, and final survey were used to measure any change in student attitudes for the value of chemistry knowledge to everyday life.

Kevin L. Bowman
Development of a Self-Questioning Strategy for Quantitative Problem Solving

Kinematics problems are notoriously difficult for first time physics students to understand and solve. In this study, a class of twenty-seven senior physics students developed a strategy based on a series of simple questions to help them solve these types of quantitative problems. Results of student achievement and attitudes will be discussed.

Corbin A. Brace
Determining the Level of Change In Higher Order Thinking Skills for Upper Level Physics Classes

For the average high school student, the physics classroom provides one of the first opportunities to for demonstrating higher level thinking skills using mathematics as a model to represent the world around them. In this study, 26 high school students were evaluated and monitored to determine if student level of higher order thinking improved. Some of the evaluation tools were concept maps, essay questions, online discussions, and surveys. The data was inconclusive which lead the researcher to make plans to alter instruction.

Kelly Cameron
The Effect of Constructivist Teaching Strategies on Advanced Biology Students’ Attitudes about Learning and Performance

The best way for students to learn and remember concepts is to individually construct knowledge rather than be lectured to. This study examined the effect of constructivist teaching strategies on advanced biology students’ attitudes about learning and their performance. Two advanced biology units were redesigned to convert primarily lecture-based instruction to a constructivist format. Strategies included model building, role-playing, inquiry labs, video-production, as well as book and rap productions. Students selected projects that matched their individual learning style. Performance data indicated that for short-term memory the altered methods did not make a difference. Survey data indicated that seventy-one percent of senior students felt they had better long-term memory for topics taught with the constructivist approach. The majority of students favored the active learning that the constructivist approach encourages.

Ralph Carlson
Using Concept Mapping as a Review Assignment to Improve Student Learning

The purpose of this project was to study the effects of using concept mapping as a review assignment on teaching, learning, curriculum and governance in high school biology classes. The concept maps were used at the end of a unit of study to help the students organize all the major ideas of the unit into one document. Four different concept maps were made over a period of three units. Data were collected on the four commonplaces of teacher, learner, curriculum and governance using a comparison of previous year's work, personal reflection, student surveys and observations of student made concept maps. The results of this study show that the introduction of concept mapping has had a positive effect on the teacher, learner, curriculum and governance.

Corinne L. Chavern
Implementing Organization and Time Management Skill Instruction into a Middle School Science Classroom

The focus of this project was on teaching organizational and time management skills. Implementation of organization and time management instruction into the classroom was based on the use of a daily planner and guidelines for keeping an organized science notebook. Peer evaluations periodically gauged the success of each student in meeting set guidelines. The students’ organizational successes were compared with their academic achievement on homework and tests for three grading periods during the school year. The students most influenced by the implementation were students in the middle of the spectrum. Overall these students wanted to do well and wanted help to achieve their goals. The teaching and modeling of organizational skills helped them be more productive.

Susan Choman
Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated learning was used as a model to teach 3 units in 8th grade science. Because of the varied and diversified student population in my science classes, the traditional model was not meeting their needs. Through tiered contracts and small group interaction, the students' needs were better met at a level in which they could understand the fundamental concepts as well as use higher level thinking skills to design, build, and create models of their own scientific concepts. I was able to curb misconceptions and help the students build solid foundations.

Tom Cubbage
Differential Instruction and Learning Styles

In this project, the teacher assessed biology students learning style preferences, taught techniques to improve learning, and attempted to meet each learner’ needs through differentiation of teaching methods, activities, and assessment methods. Does information about student’s learner preferences improve teacher responsiveness to students? Can a teacher meet all student learner preferences? Will student knowledge of learning style lead to improvement of the learning? Will this lead to a shared responsibility for learning? These questions will be addressed in the presentation.

Sandra Chisholm DeYonge
The Power of the Story to Teach Science

The intent of this study was to determine the characteristics of literature, written in the narrative form, that provide a strong learning stimulus for scientific concepts. As a result of this study the Touchstones Rubric, a set of 14 characteristics, was developed through an analysis of professional literary reviews and interviews with educators and writers. When a book having several of these characteristics was tested with fifth and sixth grade students, 73% of student responses that were incorrect on the pre-test were corrected or enhanced on the post-test. Attendees will be provided a copy of the Touchstones Rubric and will have an opportunity to analyze selected books for their fitness as a science teaching tool.

Sharon Dotger
Teaching Reaction Prediction in AP Chemistry: Identifying Student Roadblocks to Success

A variety of assessment techniques and analysis of student work revealed common areas of difficulty for high achievement AP chemistry student learning reaction prediction. Essentially, students must have a working knowledge of the most basic material in order to succeed at higher level problem solving. The presentation will describe the process used to reach these findings, as well as the implications for the modification of AP Chemistry Reaction Prediction unit design.

Phyllis French
The Effect of Learning Style Adaptations on Student Motivation and Achievement in the Chemistry Classroom

This research project focused on modifying activities and lessons in a chemistry class to the dominant learning styles and multiple intelligences of the students in order to determine if this would result in increased student motivation and achievement. Students were made aware of their learning style preferences and multiple intelligence strengths. Their journal was a record of motivation. Examination mean scores were compared to the mean scores of prior units for evidence of increased achievement. The results of this study may be valuable to science teachers interested in how consideration of learning style and multiple intelligence theory affect the chemistry classroom.

Michele M. Geisler
Constructing Meaning Through Concept Maps and Narrative Laboratory Reports

This study focused on the use of concept maps and an open-ended, narrative laboratory report format to improve scientific writing ability and construction of knowledge. Two classes of college preparatory biology students used concept maps and a narrative laboratory format in a cell unit. Student work was evaluated with scoring guides. Surveys and interviews were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the laboratory reports and concept maps in construction of meaning from laboratory and class experiences. A positive impact on scientific writing, knowledge construction, and evaluation of student work was found.

Michael Gregory
The Effect of Inquiry Laboratory Experiences on Higher-Order Thinking Skills in High School Biology I Students

This study explored the effect of inquiry laboratory experiences on higher-order thinking skill development. A series of laboratories were developed and implemented in a comparative between full inquiry and traditional procedural approaches. Throughout the study assessments of student analysis, synthesis, and evaluation skills were done to monitor student progress and measure changes in student higher-order thinking. Student opinion concerning inquiry versus traditional laboratory experiences was gathered for analysis.

Robin J. Hehn
Using Concept Maps to Identify Student Misconceptions to Improve Teaching and Learning

The integration of concept mapping into the curriculum of general biology added an informal assessment tool to enhance learning. Student misconceptions of specific topic areas were assessed before and after instruction. The purpose was to determine if the identification of student misconceptions, based on concept map assessments, enabled me to focus lesson plan development and structure re-teaching to address misconceptions.

Kathy Howe
Using the History of Science to Construct Meaning

This project used a history of science approach to organize the presentation of ideas for students to construct meaning. The two topics considered with the model were forces & motion, and atomic structure & the periodic table. A variety of data was collected, including preconception checks, misconception checks conducted at the end of the unit, and misconception checks conducted several weeks after the unit ended. Data were analyzed to evaluate the strengths and weakness of the historical approach.

John Julian
Learning to Teach Guided Inquiry Lessons

This project was a reflection on the process to effectively integrate inquiry learning into the curriculum of a grade twelve physics course. This study considered what was learned about guided inquiry and teaching from two instructional experiences. Ideas, thoughts and research by other professionals were used. Results are from two guided inquiry learning trials conducted on current electricity and waves and sound. The result of the project was an action plan to implement integrated inquiry learning into senior high physics course.

Linae Kendall
The Effects of Laboratory Investigation and Laboratory Application Assessment on Student Scientific Reasoning Skills

Given the abstract concepts of chemistry, how can transitional high school thinkers become proficient in their scientific reasoning skills? This study focused on the effectiveness of increasing student-reasoning skills using laboratory application assessments after laboratory investigations. The focus was on one class of general chemistry students. After each laboratory activity, students wrote a lab report and completed an application assessment based on the investigation. Student investigation worksheets, lab reports, and application assessments were gathered as artifacts and analyzed. The study indicated that students demonstrated a higher level of reasoning skill when asked to apply the skills and principles from the laboratory setting in a new application.

David Lee
Computer-based Homework: An Action Research Study of Its Implementation in High School Chemistry Classes

This study incorporated computer-based homework into chemistry classes for three semesters. For the first semester students had a textbook-correlated CD-ROM to access homework assignments. Internet and e-mail assignments were added next. Finally, a class web site was developed for the last semester of this study. The web site may be viewed online at Results from this study included positive student preference for computer-based homework, correlation to achievement gains, enhanced technology skills, and an increase in opportunities for student-centered learning. Primarily, this study had its greatest impact on the teacher. Chemistry was taught with more expansion, improved organization, increased communication, and better understanding of each student’s abilities.

Brita Lien
Action Research on Integrated Modality Instruction and Assessment at Two Grade Levels

This is action research into the use of balanced modality instruction, lessons, and assessment; in addition, it is a comparison between 8th and 12th grade classes and gender, as well as student attitudes toward modality-specific activities. Lessons and instruction in an electrical circuits unit were adapted to integrate multiple modalities. Authentic assessments were designed to allow for auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes of learning. Over the course of two different implementations of the unit, comparisons were made between 8th and 12th graders, with the 12th graders performing significantly higher. In addition, a comparison was made between boys and girls scores, with the girls scoring higher. Students disliked labs, but upon closer inspection, students' negative attitudes were directed toward lab reports rather than activities. Integrated modality units allowed for a kinesthetic component in the curriculum without the use of lab reports.

Eric Matthews
Can the Use of Minute Papers Have an Effect on Student Attitudes Toward Science?

The focus of this project was to measure middle school student attitude toward science when using minute papers after selected class activities. Minute papers allowed an immediate glimpse at understanding and provided each student individual teacher feedback. The goal was to determine if such feedback effected student attitude toward science. Attitude was measured with student surveys designed to address five affective variables. Student interviews augmented survey findings. Overall attitude toward science, as measured with the surveys, was inconsistent. Interview results, however, showed that attitude increased and students felt more confident about learning as a result of the use of minute papers.

Diane M. Mayer
Improving Student Report Cards

With increased emphasis across the country on student performance and school quality, many school districts are moving toward more holistic measures of student progress. One method currently being implemented is a standards-based report card. Four seventh grade math teachers piloted a standards-based report card in the Bozeman, Montana school district. In addition, the author piloted this standards-based report card with her two seventh grade science classes. Data analysis indicates that most teachers, parents and students want more information on a report card than simply a letter grade, but that a successful standards-based report card requires collaboration and extensive planning.

Birgitta R. Meade
Homeschooling and Public Schooling Families: Which Assessment Methods Do They Prefer?

This project explored the learning partnership between parents, students, and the teacher. The focus was specifically on determining which assessment methods families find most valuable. Participants in a Homeschool Assistance Program with weekly science enrichment classes were compared with traditional public school students and parents. Results indicated that parents of both groups place exceptionally high value on conversations with their children. Attitudes of public and homeschooling parents and students toward standardized tests, grades, and portfolios were compared and contrasted.

Linda A. Moule
Vocabulary Acquisition and Student Learning Using Brain Compatible Teaching Strategies

This study examined the effects of using new teaching strategies for vocabulary acquisition on overall student learning and retention of information. Students were asked to make a visual representation of vocabulary terms, combining the definition, word roots, picture, and a phrase to bring it all together on one paper. Analogies, puns, and other wordplay were encouraged to promote higher order thinking skills. Quiz and test scores, drawings, student surveys, student interviews, and teacher journals were used to determine if the new techniques impacted student understanding and retention as well as the teacher’s effectiveness in presenting the information. Although the results of the quizzes were inconclusive when compared to scores of previous students, the responses from student interviews and surveys showed positive reactions to the vocabulary learning method and an increase in student involvement.

Susan A. Olsen
Utilizing a Structured Writing Method for Laboratory Reports and Its Effect on Student Attitude Towards Writing

Traditionally students’ attitudes toward writing in science class have not been positive. The objective of this study was to see if using a structured writing method for laboratory reports would improve students’ attitudes toward writing in science class. Two general biology classes were used as the study groups. Surveys, minute papers and individual interviews were used as data collection tools, both before and after the study. Lab quiz scores were also used for analyzing results. This study showed that a structured writing method improved students’ attitudes towards writing.

M. Ryan Prnka
The Use of Multiple Assessment Strategies to Enhance Student Achievement in Ninth Grade Physical Science

This study focused on the effectiveness of multiple assessment strategies during a chemical reactions unit in ninth grade physical science. The research involved altering the existing method of assessment from a single, end-of-unit exam to shorter, sectional or conceptual assessment strategies throughout the focus unit. A class of eight students completed various learning assessments, both in an individual and group setting, to acknowledge student understanding, direct teacher instruction and improve communication between teacher and students. Students completed a post-unit survey to determine the usefulness and communicate thoughts about each assessment strategy. The traditional exam assessment had an average score of 92%, with students expressing confidence and ownership in their learning.

Rob Smith
Creating Meaningful Learning through the Implementation of Concept Mapping

In order for students to learn new material, according to a constructivist approach, it is important for the student to make connections between prior knowledge and new knowledge. This capstone project focuses on how concept mapping was introduced into a freshman Biology course. Creation of a concept map helps students arrange data within a hierarchical system. This hierarchy is created through a guided, teacher led, discovery where students make knowledge connections. Data was collected using a Likert survey, personal journal, concept map rubric scores, and informal survey. Results relating to the teacher’s personal growth and the students’ experience will be discussed.

Sonja Squires
Uncovering and Utilizing Student Misconceptions About Forces and Motion

This project considered how to uncover student misconceptions and use that knowledge to replace incorrect information with scientifically sound information. Eighth grade physical science students used lessons from Joseph Stepan's book Targeting Students' Science Misconceptions: Physical Science Concepts Using the Conceptual Change Model to better understand the concepts of motion. They were assessed through the use of an adapted Force Concept Inventory administered both pre- and post- unit, learning logs, performance based assessments, and construction of a Roundhouse diagram. These assessments determined what the students had learned and what, if any, misconceptions prevailed after instruction. Most students improved their scores on the post-test and demonstrated that their misconceptions were at least beginning to be corrected.

James F. Striebel
Improving Student Metacognition and the Assessment of Conceptual Understanding through Pre and Post Unit Concept Mapping

This project was conducted to address a perceived weakness in the assessment of conceptual understanding in my classroom. The project consisted of having students make conceptual maps before and after units in science classes. Maps were analyzed by both the students and the teacher to assess learning. Students were interviewed to determine how this practice affected their metacognitive abilities. The study revealed that the teacher gained greater insight into the level of student conceptual understanding through the use of concept mapping. In addition, it was determined through interviewing, that students were engaged in metacognitive thinking during the process of making and assessing concept maps. Moreover, this project addressed the role of conceptual mapping as a meaningful and acceptable assessment tool.

Nicole E. Trombetta
The Effectiveness of Using Analogies to Illustrate Concepts in 9thGrade Honors Biology

Analogies are powerful tools that can make abstract concepts more concrete in students’ minds. When students devise their own analogies, they are required to access their prior knowledge and make connections between the new material and what they already know. The aim of this project was to introduce analogical reasoning skills to 24 ninth grade Honors Biology students and assess the effectiveness of student-devised analogies in learning about cell organelles, enzymes, and photosynthesis. My hope was that having the students develop their own analogies would lead to meaningful learning of these concepts. The majority of students reported that analogies benefited their comprehension. The students also found the analogy activities to be enjoyable, engaging, and thought-provoking.

Melody R. VanderWeide
Vee Maps in the Science Classroom: Moving Toward Inquiry Learning

Students have a tendency to rush through laboratory experiments without thinking about their actions. The traditional cookbook laboratory manual promotes the do-it-now-think-later mentality that ends up leaving students with a bad taste for science. To combat this, a new type of lab report, the Vee Map, was implemented. The Vee Map requires that students provide evidence of thinking before performing experiments. Thus, the experiment becomes a way to investigate a question, rather than a tedious assignment. In this study, three chemistry classes at a private Christian school were utilized. Student surveys, assessment scores, and observations revealed that Vee Maps can be an efficient and effective laboratory tool to aid meaningful learning.

Jeffery R. Wehr
The Effect of Involving Parents Using Web-Based Grade Reports and Assignment Schedules on Junior High and High School Science Student Achievement

The purpose of this study was to determine if junior high and high school science students' achievement improved by increasing parental involvement through the use of web-based grade reports and assignment schedules. Using student and parent surveys, as well as Internet-posted grade reports and assignment schedules, the degree of parental involvement and student achievement was measured. The data revealed that junior high and high school science students' achievement increased through parental involvement by using web-based grade reports and assignment schedules.

Timothy J Ziegler
Concept Mapping As A Tool For Knowledge Construction During Guided Experiments and Inquiry Investigations

Knowledge construction is difficult during guided experimentation and inquiry investigations carried out by high school chemistry students. This study focused on concept mapping as a learning tool to help students make connections between concepts that are associated with atomic structure, electrochemical, and mole concept guided experimentation and inquiry investigations. Data collected and analyzed from student concept maps, interviews, surveys, and researcher field notes indicated that concept map construction facilitated knowledge construction during laboratory experiences.