Montana State University
The Graduate School> MSSE Home > Capstone Abstracts

Intercollege Programs for Science Education

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

Tel: (406) 994-5679
Fax: (406) 994-5575
E-mail: msse@montana.edu
Location: 401 Linfield Hall

Director:

Dr. Peggy Taylor

2007 Capstone Project Abstracts

Right Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Pellentesque sit amet odio lectus, pharetra aliquet ante.Link Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc in placerat dolor. Donec sit amet lectus mi, a ultrices lectus. Pellentesque sit amet odio lectus, pharetra aliquet ante.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc in placerat dolor. Donec sit amet lectus mi, a ultrices lectus. Pellentesque sit amet odio lectus, pharetra aliquet ante.


Serena Ayers
Traditional Lab Dissection vs. Alternative Methods:  A Comparison of Techniques Used to Teach Animal Anatomy and Physiology

In this investigation four methods of studying animal anatomy were compared to determine if traditional dissection can effectively be replaced by creating models, virtual dissections, and/or watching an interactive videoed dissection. The results of the study demonstrated that traditional lab dissections are the best method for students’ retention and understanding of material, and enthusiasm for science.

Jason “Jay” B. Barr
What Do Students Learn about the Nature of Science from Science Fiction Films?

This project examined how students comprehend topics in Earth Science, view particular Sci-Fi movies related to those topics, and conduct an analysis between science fact and fiction.  Results identified the students’ success in applying new knowledge and the ability to distinguish science concepts, plus it considered student attitude towards learning science topics, attendance and performance.

Lindsay Marie Bartolone
Evaluation of Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum’s Astronomy Connections Professional Development Program

Since 2000, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum in Chicago, IL has offered a professional development program called Astronomy Connections. This study used a variety of methods to measure the impact of this program and its ability to meet the participants' needs.  Qualitative and quantitative measures, including participant interviews, indicated some areas of success and those areas will be used to improve the program for future offerings.

Lisa Hilling Carpenter
How Will Teaching Content Area Reading Strategies Influence Students' Ability to Comprehend Science Text?

This study explored the benefit of teaching reading strategies to 8th grade students, and evaluating how these skills translate into comprehension. Multiple assessments, teacher observations and standardized testing evaluated retention. Variables associated with the group were evaluated to determine how students can succeed even when they don’t want to. This research indicated students need constant reinforcement of skills.

Lesley Chappel Bunch
Using Increased Parent Contact to Improve Academic Success

This study focused on giving parents extra tools to support their children’s quest for academic success. A select group of parents were regularly contacted and given specific updates on their child’s academic progress. The results indicate that parents preferred the extra communication and students participated in extra credit assignments more frequently, but students did not have a higher turn in rate for regular homework assignments. 

Mark Calhoun
The Affects of a Course Webpage on Student’s Achievement in Physics 

This research used a course web page as supplementary support to improve student learning in Physics.  Technology provided an “at home” aid for students to assist in understanding course content.

Jennifer A. Ceven
Standards-Based Reporting: A Tool to Improve Communication

Students, parents, and teachers generally have little shared understanding about the information encoded in a letter grade.  Standards-based reporting, a grading system based on the measurable attainment of specific skills, can be used to provide clear, specific, and objective data about student achievement to students and their parents.  This study examined the impact of implementing standards-based reporting on communication about student strengths and weaknesses.

Tonya Chapweske
Does One Size Fit Most?  A Study of Differentiated Instruction

This study focused on differentiated instruction and its effectiveness in a middle school life science classroom.  Learning styles and multiple intelligence inventories were administered to students as a starting point for differentiation of lessons.  Tiered assignments, stations and task cards were the main differentiated instruction tools used.  Data collected showed positive changes in students and the instructor over the course of the study.

Stacey Dobrosky Cool
The Usage of Online Assignments in an AP Chemistry Course:  Using WebAssign to Create Instructional Minutes

There is never enough time in an AP science class.  In order to address this, I utilized WebAssign to assign, collect, and grade homework and some quizzes.  Students loved the convenience, portability, hints, and instant feedback that WebAssign provided.  As a teacher, I appreciated the randomization features and the correlation with the textbook.  Ultimately, peer collaboration increased and homework issues decreased, freeing class time for further instruction and lab opportunities.

Victor Dalla Betta
Draw the Line – Differentiating Instruction in a Science Classroom

By focusing lessons around individual learner styles and intelligence modalities, I have impacted my professional growth and promoted student learning.  Seventy two eighth graders were assessed for learning styles and strengths.  These assessments were used to create individual and differentiated lessons for a Force and Motion unit.  Pre and Post data included student surveys, student interviews and standardized test scores with support provided from a researcher journal. 

Brad Deacon
The Role of Collaborative Testing in AP Chemistry

Putting students through the rigors of an AP Chemistry course can be a stressful process.  In an attempt to relieve some of this angst, I allowed students to take tests with a partner.  A Test Anxiety Index, student surveys and interviews were used to quantify and qualify the effect of collaborative testing on test anxiety.  Other aspects examined were the effects on homework completion and student attitudes.

Dale Dennler
The Impact of Differentiated Instruction on Teacher Effectiveness and Student Learning

This project explored how developing differentiated lessons affected my effectiveness with sophomore biology classes.  Differentiated lessons focused on students’ retention of new material, learning style, and performances when differentiating based on their readiness level.  Student surveys, interviews, unit test scores, and a personal journal were used to collect data.  The results indicate an increase in student performances and attitudes when given opportunities to use individualized learning styles and readiness levels.

Bruce J. Dudek
Using Manipulatives to Bridge Science and Math

This project was designed around the belief that understanding science concepts requires a basic understanding of key mathematical principles.  Both hands-on real-life objects and computer-based manipulatives were used in this project to help students conceptualize some key concepts in physical science. The activities proved to be motivational to the students and helped solidify the understanding of some scientific concepts.

Brooke M. Durham
Vocabulary Voyage:  Utilizing Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to Help Students Better Understand and Remember Science Concepts

To help my sixth grade students understand and recall science concepts and vocabulary, I utilized Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. After the students identified their dominant learning style, they were exposed to two types of grouping, whole group instruction and independent learning style groups.  They shared their attitudes and feelings toward this new process through surveys, log sheets, and journals, and their changes in knowledge of concepts were determined with assessments.

Jane M. Fisher
The Effects of Using an Inquiry Approach on Student Performance

This is an action research project on incorporating inquiry based activities into my science classes.  The project was implemented to view the effect of an inquiry approach on students’ learning.  Data collected and analyzed through pre and post surveys, student journals and teacher observations indicated that the inquiry approach did not significantly increase student’s performance and understanding.

James Flora
Impacting Student Comprehension of Graph Related Concepts

The students of Pleasant Hope struggle with graphing concepts. This study’s purposes were to determine the students’ attitude toward graphing, identify the students’ weaknesses in graphing, and design and implement a cost effective unit (utilizing Vernier software and a single projector) to positively impact the learners’ attitude and understanding. The designed graphing unit had a positive impact on the student’s comprehension of graph related concepts.

Jonathan Frostad
Assessment FOR Learning: The Impact of Powerful Classroom Assessment Training on Science Teaching in Washington State

This study investigated the impact of professional development workshops on the attitudes and assessment practices of science teachers. The workshops had two goals. First, by clarifying the relationship between state science standards and the state assessment system, the goal was to reduce teachers’ anxieties and misconceptions about the state test. Second, by providing hands-on training, the workshops sought to improve teachers’ ability to create quality classroom assessments aligned to the state standards.

Kimberley Garner
Does the Incorporation of Computer Activities Enhance Student Engagement and Higher Order Thinking?

This study investigated the impact of different types of computer activities, which targeted the basic levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, on biology students’ understanding of concepts and engagement in learning.  Computer games were used to address comprehension, online Project WISE activities were used to help students apply knowledge, and customized Webquests were used to have the students evaluate information.  The data suggest that these activities increased understanding.

Jeff Gaston
PowerPoint(c)...Is It a Powerful Learning Tool?

Teachers have increasingly been implementing Microsoft PowerPoint(c) presentations into their daily lessons. Can this technology improve student learning? This study examined how incorporating Microsoft PowerPoint (c) presentations affected student attitudes and their conceptual understanding of physics. The study determined if the creation and use of these presentations was a worthwhile use of teacher preparation time.

Jeff Grom
Implementing Science Inquiry in an Otherwise Objectivist Classroom

This study implemented scientific inquiry techniques. Past practice used traditional “cookbook” laboratory investigations where students gained little insight into the reasons they were carrying out lab investigations. The process involved an inquiry scaffolding technique where student responsibilities were increased over a four phase process. Students became more inquisitive, learned how to write procedures and gained better insight into investigations.

Angela Haas
Climbing to Inquiry Proficiency: A Case Study of the Use of Scaffolding to Develop Inquiry Skills During Labs

Inquiry is an important skill as confirmed by its inclusion in Montana and national science standards.  To address the low level of inquiry in my physical science labs, I developed a lab program that involved scaffolding and direct instruction of specific inquiry skills which culminated in students designing and completing their own experiments.  The results have shown that students have improved their inquiry skills throughout the course of this program.

Marie Akers Hamaker
Investigating the Effect of an Inquiry Approach on Student Motivation and Achievement

The purpose of this study was to compare an inquiry approach to an expository approach that used confirmation laboratory activities. An inquiry-based life science unit was compared to an expository/confirmation laboratory Earth Science unit. To determine which of the two teaching methods was superior, I compared student interest, behavior, confidence, and achievement throughout the units. I also investigated the participants' perceptions of the units

Lisa Hawkins
The Power of a Choice:  What Happens When You Empower Students to Make Informed Choices in the Classroom?

This project investigated the effect of offering biology students more choice in the classroom. A traditional unit was compared to a treatment unit in which students were encouraged to select a summative assessment based on their identified learning style.  Analysis demonstrated that student understanding of learning styles increased; however, academically, the treatment unit was not significantly beneficial to the students.

Kelly Hayden
Examining Project WET Workshop Design and its Influence on Teachers’ Local Watershed Knowledge

The traditional Project Water Education for Teachers (WET) workshop explores water issues and concepts, but does not lend itself to investigating the specific local watershed concerns. This study explored the effectiveness of a more locally focused Project WET workshop to promote local watershed understanding.

Shelia Higgins
Young Minds Under Construction: Using Inquiry to Facilitate Student Learning through Constructivism

The focus of this project was the implementation of the 5E learning cycle in order to investigate what notable conceptual learning and student attitude outcomes would result when students actively construct their own understanding of essential science concepts. Preliminary findings showed increased levels of student interest and engagement.

Bernard C. Hoczur
Introduction of Basic Mathematics and Problem Solving Techniques in Secondary Education Physics Classes

This project determined if student performance would improve by changing the method of teaching physics from a traditional approach to one with more emphasis on basic math skills before each new concept.  Study results suggest the approach has merit.  Academic year 2006 results showed a marked improvement over 2005 results with a similar demographic.  The project helped me understand my teaching style and student attitudes. 

Linda Jones
Knowledge Acquisition and Value Development in the Ethnobotany Classroom

Ethnobotany is the most popular class at Sitting Bull College.  While students thoroughly enjoy class and participate in plant walks and discussions, they do not take sacred plant knowledge home to use and share with their families. I have implemented inquiry-based, hands-on lab activities designed to teach students practical methods for using plants in their everyday lives. How will these labs increase value development and skill acquisition among ethnobotany students?

Julianne A. Kent
Do We Have to Write in Science Class?: The Benefits of Science Notebooks in a Middle School Classroom

Throughout 2006-2007, seventh grade students used science notebooks in a variety of ways within the classroom.  Data was collected concerning the effects of science notebooks on academic achievement, self-confidence, and organizational skills.  While data does not indicate increased achievement, both students and the researcher felt notebooks were a valuable addition as indicated by students’ improved organization and self-sufficiency.

Alexa Knight
Implementing Pre-reading through Post-reading Strategies to Improve Student Comprehension and Retention of Geology Concepts

Reading strategies, from pre-reading through post-reading phases, were implemented with physical science students to determine the effect these strategies on student comprehension and retention of concepts. Students were taught reading strategies, such as, use of an anticipation guide, double-entry journal, and summary/paraphrasing.  Data from this research included student interviews, surveys, and unit assessments and suggest that these strategies had a positive impact on students' learning of science.

Karla Laubach
The Effect of Differentiated Instruction on Students’ Performance and Attitudes Toward Science

Is differentiated instruction all that it’s cracked up to be?  This study analyzed how learning styles and multiple intelligences of eighth grade students were used to help differentiate instruction.  While implementing strategies that fit the needs of my diverse students was more difficult than research suggested, the response from my students indicated that using their strengths led to higher learning and created a more positive science experience.

Catherine Le
The Impact of Alternative Assessment on Measurement of Content Knowledge

“Traditional” tests consisting of multiple-choice and completion type questions are often used as summative assessments but a subset of students has difficulty with this assessment format.  The purpose of the study was to see how well traditional tests measure content knowledge relative to alternative assessments, such as, concept maps and pamphlet projects.  Data about student assessment scores and opinions toward each type of assessment were collected and analyzed.

Rebekah Levine
Teacher as Scientific Researcher: Arctic Grayling Emergence and Distribution on Odell Creek, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

Being in touch with current research and scientific methods enables a teacher to imbue the scientific process with life.  In the summer of 2006 I had the opportunity to gain valuable experience as primary investigator in a study tracking Arctic grayling fry at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana.  The research conducted furthers understanding of the southernmost native population of Arctic grayling.

Jean Armour Lewis
Engaging the Disengaged: Identifying Student’s Strengths, Weaknesses and Affinities in a Place-Based Curriculum

This project explored methods that exposed individual student’s strengths, weaknesses and affinities in a kindergarten through 2nd grade classroom. The results suggest that by correlating teaching strategies with specific student’s strengths, and/or affinities, a higher level of student engagement is possible.  The value of this study has resulted in the realized potential of students who appeared disinterested and a more conscientious and effective teaching practice.

Michelle Marcil-Spicer
Integrating Reading Strategies with the 5E Instructional Model into High School Biology Lessons

Do science teachers worry about teaching reading strategies? It is my belief that we should.  This study integrated learning biology concepts and general reading strategies with the 5E instructional model, to help students develop the skills and tools needed to increase reading comprehension and, thereby, content knowledge.

Cooper Mallozzi
Fostering Environmental Stewardship in Young Adults through an Experiential Natural Science Curriculum

This study determined the effect of an experiential natural science curriculum on participants' environmental stewardship ethic. Surveys, interviews, and personal observations were used to assess curriculum strengths in regard to the five tenets of the Tbilisi Declaration defining environmental education: Awareness, Sensitivity, Attitude, Skills, and Participation. Quantitative and qualitative data suggested the curriculum addressed the first three tenets and a need to focus on the implementation of skills and participation.

Jason Martin
“Operation Grab-It” - Hands-On Inquiry-Based Approach to Improve 5th-Grade Science Scores on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Test

This project was based on the premise that hands-on inquiry-based science instruction can make a greater impact on test scores—and enthusiasm for learning—than lecture-based teaching. A 10-week after-school program aimed to make science fun for underachieving “at-risk” 5th-grade students.  Interviews, surveys and state-mandated test scores indicated the program was a success.

Jeff Moll
Improving Lab Report Quality in a High School Earth Science Classroom

The purpose of this project was to increase the number of lab reports completed and to improve the quality of all lab reports submitted.  Four classes of high school earth science students were presented with pre-lab assignments and scoring rubrics.  Results showed that students felt more prepared to complete the lab work and were better prepared to complete the lab reports as shown by pre and post treatment scores.   

Stephanie Parker
The Impact of a Kinesthetic Astronomy Curriculum on the Attitudes, Self-Efficacy and Content Knowledge of High School Students

Research indicates that students’ misconceptions regarding the nature of seasons are highly resistant to conceptual change.  In addition, many students feel that science is a subject that is too difficult.  This study investigated the impact of a kinesthetic astronomy program on high school students’ attitudes, self-efficacy and conceptual understanding of seasons, with special attention given to at-risk students.  Data sources included gain on open-response assessments, attitude surveys and interviews.

Jacki Pealatere
Will Active Student Involvement in the Collection and Analysis of Data for a Field Study of Invasive Plants Affect Student Attitudes and Performance in the Science Classroom?

Seventh grade students did a field study unit on native and invasive plants. Assessment of the impact on student learning included attitude surveys, knowledge probes, and minute papers. Analysis was done among boys and girls, aptitude in math, and with second-language learners. Evidence indicated that field study experiences had a positive effect on student attitudes towards science class, and a moderate increase in comprehension and performance scores. 

Stuart A. Perez Jr.
The Effects of Increasing Inquiry Activities on Learning Physical Science

This study investigated the effects of increasing inquiry activities during instruction on student understanding of and interest in physical science.  Teaching methods were changed from a "basic" lecture-lab to a guided inquiry approach that coupled lectures with the laboratories.  Data were collected with surveys and pre and post assessment techniques, such as, tests, KWL, and concept mapping, and showed student knowledge and interest was positively affected by inquiry.

Lisa Pingrey
Investigating the Efficacy of Using an Inquiry Approach to Teaching Mathematics

Many times mathematics curriculum is taught as an isolation of ideas.  Students are unable to link their ideas or problem solve.  Math becomes a mere regurgitation of facts.  To understand math, teaching needs to change from lecturing and listening to innovative techniques that promote inquiry.  This study showed the impact of inquiry-based math units in an Algebra II classroom compared to the instruction using traditional methods.

Cary Berryman Rosillo
L.I.N.K.:  Learning through Inquiry Nurtures Knowledge:  Inquiry based Instruction and its Effects on the High ability Learner

A sample of 110 gifted and advanced sixth and seventh graders were exposed to inquiry-based units, utilizing the 5E instructional model.  Alternatively, a traditional instructional model was presented during these units in Life and Earth science.  The incorporation of the student’s learning style was also crucial in determining the cooperative groupings of students.  Results indicated the relevance of an inquiry-based curriculum for the gifted/advanced science classroom. 

Patrick H. Simmons
The Effect of an Interactive Science Notebook on Eighth Grade Physical Science Students’ Organization and Content Mastery

Tired of students not being able to find the materials needed for class, telling you they don’t know what to study, or that they can’t read their own notes?  This investigation examined how an Interactive Science Notebook helped students to become organized, improving their chances of academic success in physical science.  The results indicate that students were successful in maintaining an organized notebook and learning the course material

Michael Sitter
Can High School Students Do Science?  Does Teaching Science Process Skills and Using Inquiry Affect Students’ Ability To Do Science?

This project focused on teaching science process skills, including observation, hypothesis writing and experimental design to 9th grade earth science students in order to see if improving student ability in these skills increased student confidence when doing science experiments.  Inquiry labs were used to assess students’ experimental abilities.  The results indicate that students’ confidence increased, but that their science process skills didn’t increase at the same pace.

Brian S. Stiff
Building Student Confidence, Proficiency in Note-Taking and Test Preparation through the Use of Partial Notes and Note Organizers

This study used a structured format to organize lecture notes into a study guide to build student proficiency in note-taking and for test preparation.  Results found eight of ten students experienced an increased level of confidence and improved test-taking ability.  All pre to post-treatment test scores improved.

Rebecca Tolzman
Evaluating How Teaching in an Outdoor Setting Influences Student Engagement

This project evaluated the influence an outdoor setting plays on student engagement.  Through class observations, student surveys and teacher interviews, behavioral indicators were assessed to determine how setting affects engagement.  Science lessons taught in the classroom and winter ecology lessons taught in an outdoor setting provided the foundation for data collection.  A greater understanding of how to engage students was the objective of investigating various settings.

Nina Tyree
The Effect of Annotated Diagrams on Student Understanding of and Perception of Physics

Annotated diagrams help students by connecting visual, symbolic and verbal representations of content material. This study examined the use of annotated diagrams and the effect on student understanding and student perception of physics.  The study also looked for differences in how students complete the diagrams based on student confidence, math level, or the nature of the material being diagramed.

Margaret Baker Van Valkenburgh
The Integration of the Arts into Science

Are there ways to increase opportunities for creativity without abandoning curriculum and classroom management?  This research focused on identifying how to best integrate the arts into a middle school science classroom.  I incorporated five art-rich activities to determine the benefit to students’ achievement and engagement levels. The research examined if the students learned more science and gained confidence in their own ability to create.

Michelle A. Vitko
Engaging Students in the Scientific Method Using Authentic Data

Recent school-wide student surveys at my school indicated that students seek a more practical, hands-on approach to instruction.  I sought teaching methods that would engage my physical science students as scientists, solving real-world problems using the scientific method.  This action research project investigated how the use of real-world data, framed within an authentic problem, influence student and teacher performance, motivation, and attitude.

Brynna Vogt
Raising Relevance: Problem-based Learning, Partnerships with Scientists, and Use of Current Events

In an attempt to eliminate the question, “Why do I have to learn this?”, three strategies were incorporated into a 7th grade science class. A variety of data collection techniques were used to investigate the effects of these methods. Results indicated partnerships with scientists and problem-based learning increased the relevance of the curriculum to students. Current events did not have the same effect on relevance, but showed other positive outcomes.

Christy Ware
The Effect of Higher-Order Questions on Students’ Responses

Asking questions is a frequently used method to access student understanding.  This study examined the use of higher-order questions to determine if sixth grade students could understand broader and deeper concepts.  Two higher-order questions were composed before each class and then used to direct discussion during class.  Student responses were monitored using audio-tapes, anecdotal records, surveys and journals.

Sharon M Welter
Introducing Fifth and Sixth Graders to their First Science Journals

Fifth and sixth graders used Science Journals to study the life cycle of plants and to develop observational and organizational skills.  Evaluation compared journal entries, surveys, tests, and reflections.  Students improved skills but more practice is needed for science journals to be an efficient tool.

Jenine R. Winslow
An Exploration of the Use of Interactive Science Notebooks to Increase Literacy Skills of High School Students

This investigation used interactive notebooks with high school biology students as a tool to help increase student involvement in and reflection of the content, and therefore improve their comprehension and retention of the material.  The increased interaction with the material that the notebook afforded improved reading and writing skills in a class of predominantly second language learners.

Emily Wrubel
Playing with Vocabulary: An Effort to Improve Students’ Functional Use of the Language of Science

Students often go through the motions of learning science terminology without actually becoming proficient in its use.  In an effort to improve students’ understanding and usage of scientific terms, I designed opportunities for students to think about these words in unexpected ways and in novel contexts.  While they had fun with language, would assessment results show increased facility with the language of science?