The purpose of this action research project was to investigate the value of cooperative science research partnerships for my science classes. After investing time and effort into programs such as a partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute that involves my students cooperatively collecting data for the lead scientist, I'm wondering what benefits these projects bring to my students? As a teacher, what have I learned from these partnerships? How have I changed from the experience? Overall, is this type of partnership a worthwhile use of a teacher’s time?
The eighth grade students at Monforton School use personal digital assistants (PDAs), also known as handhelds, in their daily assignments and research projects on Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Their teacher has been using the handhelds as a tool to enhance effective student notebooks, and for reading and language arts, classroom activities and field studies of YNP. The purpose of this action research project was to understand the impact handhelds on an eighth grade science class. Are students using them for reading assignments? Do students feel they have benefited from using the handhelds for their everyday assignments?
Larry D. Boyd
This study investigated Biological Engineering programs to determine attributes that define exemplary programs. Recently Biological engineering programs have undergone exponential expansion. As a result, little commonality exists among programs due to idiosyncratic development at each institution. Relatively few programs are accredited by the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Institutions wishing to examine existing programs will be interested in a system that stratifies programs with identification of outstanding qualities. A two step analysis algorithm was developed to assist evaluators stratifying programs with regards to quality. This algorithm can be modified to meet the particular needs of the user.
The study examined the use of an online textbook in a High School elective astronomy course. In past years, students “skimmed” their textbook and many students listed the traditional textbook as the most frustrating aspect of the course. The online text allowed students to view applets, video simulations, online quizzes and connect directly through the World Wide Web to supplement information and databases. Student enthusiasm and conceptual understanding were examined through the Astronomy Diagnostic Test, weekly quizzes and questionnaires. The study concluded the online text improved student conceptual understanding, increased enthusiasm, and helped students regulate their work habits.
Lab reports are such a time-honored science assignment that their use is seldom questioned. This project sought to determine whether lab report assignments are appropriate for middle school students and how well students learn science concepts when writing reports. Data suggested that middle school students complete lab reports at the same frequency as other assignments. Student understanding was evaluated by lab report grade and lab quiz grade analyses. In the process of implementing the project, the researcher restructured instruction to help students succeed in producing lab reports and grasping science concepts.
Dawn H. Carson
Labs are essential in teaching Chemistry. However, a lab is useless if students fail to see the purpose or draw appropriate conclusions, which is often evident in lab reports. For years, I have observed students struggle writing lab reports. The purpose of this study was to investigate if using rubrics might help students write better lab reports, especially to focus on conclusions. Rubrics, created by the teacher, where implemented for all Chemistry labs for one year. The rubric guided students with teacher’s expectations, the process of writing, and constructing conclusions.
Student-centered constructivist teaching strategies were incorporated into a high school biology course to examine the effect on three components of critical thinking in students. These strategies included a restructuring of curriculum to use the 5E learning cycle, project-based learning, and daily inquiry journaling. Student engagement, student-generated questions and incidence of metacognition were studied. Results indicated a strong increase in student engagement without sacrificing student concept understanding. Student-generated questions also increased, but evidence for increase in metacognition was not apparent.
Sue Schlagel Counterman
The purpose of this study was to document teaching and learning practices in seventh grade biology classes using a differentiated instructional model called a Choice Matrix. The teacher-designed choice matrix utilized Bloom’s Taxonomy in the development of three coded levels of student work for the cell biology unit. Students were encouraged to select assignments that fit student - determined learning style(s). A differentiated instructional unit based on the choice matrix was then compared to a non-treatment unit.
This study investigated how increased use of technology impacted teacher, student and parent/guardian communication. Seventy Physical Science students from Sparkman High School participated in the study during the fall 2005 semester. The research examined the affect of the use of internet based activities on student learning, comprehension, and attitude. This action research project employed the use of pre and post treatment interviews, surveys and quizzes/test for the curriculum. The use of e-mail and internet activities, along with other teaching resources, increased teacher/student communication and student learning measures.
After ten years, my preparation, and planning had become somewhat automatic. This study investigated how being more intentional in lesson planning, communication, and design would change practice. I examined the use of learning styles to differentiate instruction in two biology classes. Data included journals, student surveys, and peer observation. Study findings: the use of learning styles was a good initial step toward differentiating my instruction; increased attention to teaching methods elevated professionalism; and use of learning styles increased my connection with my students. Now I can truly say “I teach students not a subject.”
Teachers often think of students as sausage casing into which knowledge can be stuffed. I disagree. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of acknowledging the prior knowledge students were bringing to class and then letting them build upon accurate knowledge to create a learning environment. Lesson plans were developed based on the 5E learning cycle model and then implemented to help create a constructivist style, inquiry-based classroom.
Gregory G. Gaffey
To effectively teach, we need to know students personally, and to guide academic connections. This project explored: learning theories, learning preferences, Multiple Intelligences, Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, Maslow’s Hierarchy, differentiated instruction, and the multifaceted backgrounds of students. The results of this study suggest that it is imperative to gain insight into variables that contribute to student learning. Such information can transform an ordinary classroom into an environment that taps into individual learning potential. The value of this study has resulted in a closer teacher-student bond, a dynamic classroom environment, and a greater sense of how students learn.
Amanda E. Gilbreath
This study examined rewards that motivate high school students to complete assignments. This experiment was designed to try to answer the questions, “How does the intentional use of extrinsic motivators affect student performance?” and “Does experience with extrinsic rewards build intrinsic motivation in students?” In fall 2005 semester at Sparkman High School, each Algebra 1A student received rewards for completing daily assignments. The types of rewards varied throughout the treatment period as the students’ interest faded. Data included surveys, interviews, and pre/post-treatment grades. It was found that a combination of several different rewards can motivate most all students.
Laboratory experiences are important for students. As active participants in science labs, students gain a deeper sense of understanding and a greater confidence in their learning. What techniques can be utilized to encourage students to confidently contribute to their lab groups? After observing my students during labs and analyzing their attitudes, I implemented a new system. Students were assigned specific roles during labs and were assigned a grade based on their level of contribution to the lab group. Data showed a positive relationship between the implemented treatment and more active science lab participation.
The purpose of this study was to observe if pairing high achieving students with low achieving students offered a dynamic learning situation for all students involved. Six pairings were observed over the course of a quarter as students completed daily assignments. The results indicate that pairings were a positive experience for all students and provided daily academic and emotional support for the low achieving students. Gains were made in work completion rates and quarter grades. Contrastingly, most low achieving students did not demonstrate gains on their unit assessment.
This study explored the impact of socialization on students in an evening section of community college Biology. Pre and post attitude surveys determined the evolution of attitudes towards the course from start to finish. During the course, a series of student centered activities with a high level of social interaction were implemented. Evening course students are a mix of non-traditional aged students, many of whom have full time jobs. That means negative attitudes towards science and general education requirements are fairly typical. Achievement, outside observation, and personal journal reflections suggest increased personal interactions had a positive impact on student experience.
Laura M.S. Holmquist
This project examined the instructional practices involved in facilitating secret spot experiences for 5th and 6th graders. Students at Ravenwood Natural Science Center participated in solo, quiet, reflective times each day in a natural setting designed to increase their affective attachment to and cognitive understanding of natural places. Data included in-depth interviews, journals, and observations of students along with instructor reflective journal. Evidence documented that students described characteristics of secret spot experience which resulted in increased understanding of change in facilitation techniques such as an “awakening” of the senses exercise prior to a reflection exercise following each secret spot experience.
Joanna M. Hubbard
The multi-layered effects of introducing and using reflective science notebooks and peer discourse techniques during elementary science kit teacher training in the Anchorage School District were examined in this study. Research results from science trainings enhanced by teacher use of science notebooks are promising, indicating that teachers reap many of the same benefits from using science notebooks that students do.
This project investigates instructional methods used teaching vocabulary to 6th grade students. My students often struggle with exact definitions of content vocabulary. For this project, I changed my vocabulary instruction through adding a visual cue for each new word. This instructional method was used in conjunction with traditional methods. Data included student surveys, interviews, and my personal journal. Results suggest students enjoyed vocabulary instruction in this format and felt that they could better retain and communicate key definitions. As the classroom teacher, through this action research adventure I experienced greater enjoyment and empowerment in my instruction.
Kenneth J. Mager
This two-year project examined the role of student-teacher interactions outside of normal class time. During 2004-2005, interaction rates and test scores from 10 sections of human biology were recorded and compared to 10 sections from 2005-2006. In an attempt to improve content comprehension by increasing interaction rates, students in the 2005-2006 year sections were required to complete 15 weekly "muddy points", a classroom assessment technique, and five tri-weekly office visits. Test scores between the two years were compared along with student surveys to determine the overall effectiveness of the increased interactions.
A physics course with an inquiry-type of curriculum, called “modeling”, call for alternative assessment methods. In order to authentically evaluate students, use performance assessments were used to demonstrate a deeper understanding of material. In order to objectively evaluate performance assessments a scoring rubric was developed for each task. Three techniques were used to determine the affects of the rubric design on student’s performance and attitudes. Some benefits of rubrics included preparing for, conducting, and understanding the evaluation of performance assessments.
Many teenagers utilize the “what happens at school stays at school” philosophy when it comes to parental communication. Furthermore, parents may be unaware or unsure of how to become involved in their student’s school life. This study determined whether or not a biology curriculum that encouraged parental involvement impacted student performance. An informational class website and the monitoring of student notebooks and test scores encouraged parental involvement. Surveys, interviews, and student grades were used to assess impact. While student performance change was generally insignificant, other evidence supported continued use of the system.
Kevin C. McChesney
This study investigated the use of microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) to improve the understanding of Kinematics and student scores on the Force and Motion Concept Evaluation (FMCE). Students focused on the physics concepts rather than on how to gather the data, which led to lower levels of frustration for both students and teacher. Data for the study was collected through a pre-test and post-test of the FMCE, student surveys, teacher observations and records.
This project explored how student motivation, as defined by validity and self-efficacy, was affected by journaling, and if that motivation affected the time it took students to get ready for class. In fall, students spent one month reflecting on their own academic abilities and the value of science. In the spring, a second month of journaling was done with direct instruction about the nature of science and the use of science in the world. The results showed a decrease in motivation when self-reflective journaling was used alone, but an increase in motivation when direct instruction was included.
The aim of my action research was to change my lecture-style presentation of material to a more active-learning model based on the constructivist theory of learning articulated by T. Lord (1994). I designed lectures that consisted of short segments followed by small group, active problem solving, based on the lecture information. Data collected included teacher observation, student work and questionnaire, and video/audio taping. The evidence showed that students needed a more solid foundation in basics before moving to complex problem-solving, but that they also were more attentive and involved when I used this lecture style.
Sherry L. Miller
This project investigated the effect of stimulating student's awareness of prior knowledge on the learning of content vocabulary in two classes of at-risk students. Before each unit, prior knowledge activation was accomplished through discussion and recording of ideas about the words. During the unit, games and activities offered opportunities to correct misconceptions, make new connections and reinforce learning. Activity and game outcomes were not tied to grades and encompassed unanticipated participation by all students. The results suggest the value of these types of activities and the power of competition in motivating students.
Methow Valley students develop a portfolio, augmented annually, to document progress. Along with teacher evaluations, it is the main academic record. The portfolio is presented to parents and teachers twice each year and to a community panel for a “Passage” from third to fourth grade and sixth to seventh. This study analyzed criteria established for portfolio construction. The questions included: 1) Do pieces selected for the portfolio give a clear picture of the students’ academic growth? and 2) How might reflection guidelines be improved? Study results were used to clarify portfolio criteria.
This project examined the incorporation of a science club in an alternative educational high school setting. The research explored the usefulness of a science club to initiate more involved, hands-on, science experiences and whether it would improve students' scores on an exit level science exam. The data included personal interviews with students, attendance and participation records, researcher observation, and test scores. During this project I discovered many difficulties in starting and maintaining a science club. I concluded that, while test scores were not affected, students did find enjoyment from participation in new science related activities.
Lori Ann Muchmore
After observing a dramatic rise in student participation in cooperative groups, I recognized the importance of active student engagement and student responsibility for learning. This study examined the effect of having older students teach science concepts to younger students. The study questioned whether students reach higher levels of achievement when they take on the teacher role versus the student role. Unit tests, questionnaires, and interviews were administered following each unit to describe impact and retention of student achievement and involvement. Evidence indicated that peer assisted learning did, in fact, increase student interest, but not retention in all units taught.
This action research introduced a unit plan that included detailed lecture guides. Each guide contained objectives, key terms, and important topics for students to follow during lectures and merely add notes when needed. The lecture guides were organized into a unit plan and presented to the students prior to the start of each unit. The unit plan also included all upcoming assignments along with their due dates. A change in teaching style resulted in lectures that have become more structured and focused. Evidence showed that students are more involved and on-task which resulted in improved assignment completion rate.
This research compared the effectiveness of a one week outdoor adventure program (Malaysia Week) and a one semester natural history course (Wild Malaysia) in influencing student attitudes towards the environment. Data collected included student journals, student surveys, student interviews, teacher surveys and teacher interviews. Evidence showed that both Malaysia Week and Wild Malaysia had a positive impact on teachers and students attitudes towards the environment. Evidence also demonstrated a student desire for more hands-on, field based practical learning which influenced curriculum revisions of Malaysia Week and Wild Malaysia.
I mentored students in the development of the Lumsden High School Grounds Renaturalization Project in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada. Subsequently, I followed a constructivist model to develop activities using native plants established in the school grounds to reinforce concepts taught in Biology 20. The hands on authentic experiences improved student performance significantly. Positive attitudes were shown through student ownership in the project, on task behavior and recognition of the value of native plants. This alternate approach to introducing biology and teaching plant physiology, morphology, classification and ecology was completed within the time allowed for these units.
Technology has made a major impact on the teaching-learning process and schools world over are incorporating technology. Future schools are most likely to go the electronic way. Laboratory activities play a key role in learning science. Will virtual labs be as effective? The purpose of this investigation was to see if virtual labs are as effective as traditional labs in learning science concepts. The high school students were provided with opportunities to experiment using both traditional labs and virtual labs. The study used questionnaires, post assessments, observations, interviews and video recordings.
John “Craig” Richards
This study investigated the effectiveness of peer tutoring as an intervention for failing biology students. Ten sophomores, with a current grade of “D” or “F” in biology, were matched with junior tutors and met twice a week. Peer tutoring teams participated in a wide variety of educational and social activities. Everyone involved in the project was extremely positive about the program with the tutored students concluding they had increased both their understanding and appreciation of biology. For the majority of students, biology grades improved somewhat during the study.
This study investigated the use of instructional video for concept application, concentration ability, and improving listening and memory skills. Various factors that affect student learning were considered: learning style, video length and sequence. Two videos were used in the treatments: Rocks and Minerals and Conservation of Natural Resources. Both treatments included empty outlines, pre-assessments, and post-assessments. Surveys, observations, and interviews, were done to gather qualitative data. Improvements in student scores showed that all three factors; learning style, length of video, and presentation sequence impacted students’ retention and recall.
The purpose of this project was to help AP Biology students reach a deeper, enduring understanding of biological concepts and better prepare for the AP Exam. I implemented a new instructional aide called a Learning Guide, which consisted of a series of questions to assess the level of student understanding of concepts. This project compared student interviews, surveys, journal entries, and unit quiz scores for pre-treatment and post-treatment units, and showed that the student perception of their understanding and unit quiz scores were improved with the Learning Guides.
This study found a disconnection between the underlying chemistry principles and related quantitative problem solving in the classroom. The teacher wanted students to leave class with skills related to chemical terminology, stoichiometry, and equilibrium, but, more importantly, the conceptual understanding of the principles that dictate these concepts. To achieve this goal the teacher imposed a standard wait time to responses during class discussion, Vee diagrams, and modified conceptual questions to increase the continuity between concepts and problems. These techniques allowed for the teacher to better identify students’ misconceptions as well as evaluate and modify teaching.
The purpose of this action research was to implement inquiry techniques in a high school chemistry elective class. Throughout the semester inquiry methods were embedded in laboratory activities and demonstrations along with traditional teacher-focused methods. A variety of data collection methods were used to investigate changes that occurred in my approach to teaching chemistry especially in relation to questioning strategies. The study revealed effects of inquiry techniques on students’ problem-solving and logical thinking skills. This action research study enabled me to take a more in depth look at how my teaching methods affect student learning.
Bonnie Bromley Streeter
This study investigated the affect field trips had on students’ understanding of concepts, ability to apply concepts, and attitudes toward earth science. Constructivist techniques were practiced by presenting pre-field trip lessons and establishing a framework before trips. The treatments consisted of three separate field trips with an application assignment designed for each event. Data included pre-and post fieldtrip evaluations, a parent survey, and teacher diary. Evidence indicated field trips increased exposure to concepts and application of those concepts improved student understanding. Attitudes appeared to be primarily influenced by past experiences.
The purpose of this action research project was to implement discussions of current science events in my sophomore introductory biology classroom and measure the effects that the discussions had on student interest in the curriculum topics covered. Treatment included discussions of current science issues found in newspapers, magazines, and television. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected through surveys, discussions, and a teacher journal. Analysis of the data indicates that the implementation of current science event discussions resulted in increased student interest in biology topics.
Participation in laboratory exercises is a critical component of chemistry education. However, many of these exercises expose the teacher and school district to certain liabilities. These liabilities include the students’ exposure to laboratory hazards, safe storage of reagents, and appropriate disposal of reagents. Due to these factors, the potential student learning benefit versus the liabilities must be considered for each laboratory exercise. The motivation behind my action research was to determine if safer instructional methods are an effective alternative to traditional chemistry laboratory exercises.
Paul J. Tingler
Students are honest when they reflect about their own work and the issues they experience in class. Throughout the years, this raised my curiosity as to whether I could use this to improve instruction. My primary goal was to capture the candidness of student self-evaluation, not only improve the course, but also to find ways to help students improve themselves. Data analyses from the student self-assessments, interviews, and C.A.T. results, I found and categorized five major areas that I consider the “launch pad” for increasing student performance.
Genevieve Roney Walsh
Perspectives on the natural environment vary from region to region and culture to culture. Studying these diverse views is essential to understanding the fluctuating environmental changes during our current age of globalization. This study tracked the benefits of place-based experiential education during Traveling School semesters when studying environmental issues in indigenous regions of New Zealand and Ecuador. The data gathered was used to develop curriculum for future Traveling School semesters in Southern Africa and Central America, with the focus on teaching global ecological health.
Misconceptions about basic dinosaur paleontology concepts are common among the public and educational professionals. As a museum educator, I wanted to learn more about teacher conceptions in dinosaur paleontology to design educational materials and professional development opportunities specifically addressing the most common and important misconceptions. Data included interviews with elementary school teachers. The evidence showed a range of understanding, the need for updated and clear educational materials, and a need for curriculum revision at the school district level. This research resulted in changes in the way I design educational materials and conduct teacher professional development workshops.
This study examined the use of technology in both the lecture and laboratory setting of a high school chemistry class. Student motivation and ability to learn from technology was the focus. PowerPoint, SMART Board and computer animations were used in the lecture setting. Logger Pro software and individual laptops were used in the laboratory setting. Assessment techniques included pre- and post-tests, surveys, teacher journal, analysis of specific test and laboratory questions, student interviews and comparison of test scores. Results found students were motivated by technology and able to learn from it. Student feedback offered suggestions for enhanced technology use.
Learning vocabulary is essential for student understanding. As a teacher with a preference for visual learning, I decided that vocabulary needn’t be taught with traditional methods. This project investigated visual techniques to improve engagement and attitudes in the learning of science vocabulary. Students drew cartoons to represent vocabulary words. Cartoons were then used as the primary teaching, learning, and assessment tool for each vocabulary unit. The study showed improved attitudes and engagement in vocabulary work by both teacher and students. In addition, students gained a sense of empowerment in having their work used as a classroom learning tool.
Richard C. Wyman
Does differentiating instruction and assessment make teaching more successful? Does students' knowledge of their learning style improve comfort and success? Does differential instruction improve student learning and teacher responsiveness? These questions where addressed in this study. By learning and becoming aware of students’ learning styles, the teacher was able to enhance instruction. Results showed that, although differentiated instruction may take extra time and effort, it had a positive impact on student learning.
This study examined use of Geographic Information Science (GIS) on student learning and engagement. Students were taught oceanography with GIS skills and content. GIS facilitated visualization of patterns. Student response was overwhelmingly positive. Students indicated GIS helped them to visualize important concepts, such as hurricane patterns and kelp forest location. GIS was an effective tool for teaching both factual content and analysis skills. This research suggests the time invested to learn the software was worthwhile.