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

2010 Capstone Project Abstracts

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Aimee Flavin Artigues

Why Do We Do This?: The Benefits of Student Research in a High School Science Class

Thirty 10th grade biology students engaged in student research in Crested Butte, Colorado.  Students collected and analyzed data in science notebooks about local raptor populations, specifically, students surveyed for raptor presence as well as location/habitat of roost sites. Students’ organization of science notebooks and questioning skills increased during the treatment time along with better attitudes about biology. 

James T. Ausprey

Effects of Study Strategies on Learning High School Biology Concepts              

The project’s purpose was to help students understand biology concepts and learn how to study science through the use of study strategies, such as note card recall, reading guides, and goal sheets. Results suggest improved understanding and long-term memory of concepts and some continued interest in using these strategies. Students’ attitudes about studying and assignment completion remained disinterested but attitudes toward class activities and rapport with me remained positive.

Carol Jane Baker

Building Science Vocabulary in an Elementary Intervention Classroom

The purpose of this study was to help students in a self-contained intervention classroom develop long-term vocabulary strategies that strengthen their understanding of new words, and allow them to develop independent skills that would help them with the content found in their science texts.  Students worked according to their reading levels. Through the development of the various vocabulary strategies, improvement was found in student’s comprehension and the understanding of science content.

Cheryl A. Barrientos

The Impact of Differentiated Instruction in the Chemistry Classroom Using Self-Directed Learning by way of the Layered Curriculum ©

Brief project description (abstract):  This paper investigated the learning and motivation of high school students using the Layered Curriculum © approach in a chemistry course. The methodology included a learning style quiz, student interviews, student surveys, pre and post test scores, observations and field notes.  The most important finding to my research was that students’ motivation and learning increased when given the choice, control, and variation of assignments.

Susan H. Barton

Teacher as Researcher:  The Effects of Mentoring Middle School Students Using Authentic Research Activities from the Field Study of Didymosphenia geminata  

Science teachers and students often are far removed from the excitement and value of doing authentic research.  This study analyzed the cascade of effects which resulted from simultaneously doing my own field research on the distribution of Didymosphenia geminata and mentoring students who assisted me in that research.  Results indicate that engaging in authentic research activities increased students' positive attitudes towards science and retention of concepts compared a classroom setting.

Robert David Baughman

Effects of Self-Explanation Reading Training with Concept Mapping on Understanding High School Biology Concepts

My school’s biology students show a pattern of low scores on the Mississippi State Biology I Test and my students were reading three to five grade levels below their class standing.  My project focused on elected reading strategies that allowed students to explain what they read with graphical representations. The results indicate that students improved their reading comprehension and long-term memory of concepts as well as their attitudes and motivation. 

Randall Jay Berndt

What they don’t know can hurt the science teacher: Improving the Self-Advocacy Skills of Students with Exceptional Needs

In this investigation, direct instruction and blogs were used to determine if the disability awareness and self-advocacy skills of students with exceptional needs could be improved. Eleven students with exceptional needs were instructed in the areas of knowledge of self, knowledge of rights and communication during a 16-week treatment period. Pre- and Posttreatment Student Surveys showed an improvement in the areas of disability awareness and self-advocacy knowledge. That increase in knowledge, however, did not lead to improved self-advocacy in the classroom for all students.

Susan Berrend

Student Self-Confidence in Physics

The study investigated how various traditional and non-traditional (problem-based projects and reflective journals) components of a high school physics class affected students' self-confidence in the course. Students completed surveys measuring problem-solving metacognition and academic self-concept at the completion of each of three problem-solving build projects. Students, in general, showed no improvement in their metacognition concerning problem-solving strategies, but some did show improvement in their enjoyment and creativity self-concepts.

Allen R. Bone

Igniting Identity through Native Sciences: Culture – Attendance – Tomorrow

This project was designed to include more Native American cultural activities in the seventh grade science classroom for the purpose of improving student attendance while developing a greater understanding of their ancestral ways. Increasing student attendance should ultimately lead to higher academic achievement, while encouraging our students to understand that it is OK to work towards a higher education that will benefit them, their families, and their tribe. 

Christy Bone

Using Prior Knowledge to Increase Kindergarten Students’ Science Comprehension

This study examined the best instructional practices to increase kindergarten students' comprehension in science. Data collection consisted of teacher interviews, student interviews, background knowledge probes, and teacher's field notes. The results indicated that helping students gain awareness of what they already know, how they connect prior knowledge to new information, and correcting misconceptions increased students' science comprehension.

Larene Bowen

Names! Names Everywhere! How can I learn these names?  What affect does art have on learning names and science?

The purpose of this self-case study was to determine the affects of multiple intelligence on an identified area of weakness:  learning and remembering student names.  After its effectiveness was determined, an action plan for implementing multiple intelligence strategies in the elementary science class was designed.

Donna Brayfield   

Improving Student Comprehension of Science Content Area Reading Through the Use of Reading Strategies

While reading is commonly thought of as a grade school subject, the need for continued development of reading skills in content area reading is crucial for high school.   High school biology students were expected to read for comprehension by using various reading strategies.  The effect of this on class discussion, understanding, and ability to answer higher order questions as well as improved attitude toward reading was studied.

Linda Briggeman

Inquiry Science in an Outdoor Classroom - Making Science Fun

In this project inquiry and questioning strategies were implemented in an outdoor classroom with the purpose of improving student science content knowledge. My fourth grade students took part in many activities and investigations looking for answers to their own questions. Student performance on summative assessments showed marked improvement and the development of their inquiry skills was evident. Students expressed more interests and confidence toward science learning.

Kelly P. Broderick

Addressing Student Misconceptions in Science using Discrepant Events

This study investigated how effective discrepant event activities were at addressing student misconceptions in science. Students with misconceptions were shown discrepant events. They were also administered the Cognitive Levels Conflict Test to gauge levels of cognitive conflict. Students then completed an assessment to determine whether they had changed their misconceptions. The data showed discrepant events were not sufficient on their own to cause students to change their misconceptions.

Katherine Burke

Evaluation of a Train-The-Facilitator Model of State-Wide Professional Development for Teachers of Science in Montana

In this study a Train-the-Facilitator model of professional development was implemented and evaluated. Educators were trained to facilitate a three hour workshop that focused on the Montana Science Content Standards and inquiry pedagogy. Analysis of data indicated that facilitators were not adequately prepared to facilitate all components of the workshop. Improvements needed to be made to the quality and length of training.

Rebecca B. Burg  

Measuring the Impact of Family Involvement: Changes in Motivation and Academic Success After Implementation of a Family Science Night

The purpose of this study was to gauge the changes in attitude and conceptual knowledge of students who attended a Family Science Night. The effectiveness of the family nights was measured using attitude surveys, content tests, field journal reflections, and photographs. Results indicated that parents who attended more than once had an increased appreciation for working cooperatively and learning new information. Students whose parents attended more than twice had a strong appreciation for learning about science and scored higher in science content.

Kara Ann Burrous

Implementation of Cased Based Learning in an AP Biology Course

AP biology is often synonymous with teacher-centered instruction and lecture-based techniques.  The goal of this project was to implement and introduce AP biology students to inquiry based techniques in the form of case studies.  Over the course of four months, 45 AP students were given case studies instead of the normal lecture/ discussion method during class.   Results indicated that unit test scores improved when case studies were implemented. 

Anjali Devi Chandran          

Using the Talking Drawings Strategy to Improve Comprehension of Expository Science Text

In this project, students used the Talking Drawings Strategy while reading expository science text to improve their comprehension of the text.  Results of comprehension quizzes showed that students improved their median comprehension quiz scores when using the strategy. Surveys and interviews indicated that students enjoyed doing the strategy and felt it helped them understand the text better.  Analysis of drawings done before and after the reading showed improved comprehension, ideas and vocabulary. 

Erika Christianson

Effects of Outdoor Science on Student Attitudes

Middle school is a critical time when science attitudes begin to decline, especially in females. This study investigated whether winter outdoor science is effective in fostering positive science attitudes, examined gender differences, and considered which conditions influenced student enjoyment and comfort. Results suggest the boys tended to have more positive attitudes, and students with more positive science attitudes tended to report higher enjoyment and comfort during outdoor science lessons.

Jann C. Clouse
Science Activities That Measure Up

This investigation implemented strategies focused on the teaching and practice of measurement skills within the context of science experiments and projects, with the aim of improving student proficiency in measurement.  Fifth grade students also learned to accurately describe the meaning of their measurement data when interpreting the results of their science investigations. Student posttest data showed an improvement in the understanding of measurement concepts and the use of measurement tools.

Stanley B. Covington
Effects of Blogging and Discussion Boards on Understanding Biology Concepts

This project compared the effects of weekly blogging and discussion board activities on learning biology concepts and writing skills of Grade 9 mixed ability English Language Learner science students to traditional teaching activities.  The results showed a positive student response, a small increase in understanding concepts, and an obvious increase in essay and lab report writing skills; suggesting that these tools are useful additions to traditional teaching activities.

Michelle A. Cregger

South Fork Chewelah Creek Water Quality Study: A Look at Streamside Data Collection and Classroom Application

During winter 2009-2010, a water quality study was conducted in South Fork Chewelah Creek in northeastern Washington State.  This was to determine the Water Quality Index of the stream and served as a pilot project on the feasibility of similar studies in the science classroom. Results concluded the stream’s health as “Good.” And showed that secondary science students are more than capable of participating in streamside data collection and analysis.

Carrie Jo Dagg

Science in the Adult Education Classroom: Investigating Student Science Knowledge and Instructor Responsibility in a Student’s Science Education

The Frontier Community College Adult Education Program, Fairfield, IL was identified as the focus of this descriptive study. Project objectives included identifying and examining relationships between student multiple-intelligences, learning styles and academic performance on the Official GED® Science Practice Exam, in addition to the degree to which faculty view their responsibility for a student’s science education.  Results suggest multiple correlations, which may be utilized to enhance science instruction.

Quinn Michael Dailey

Explicit Nature of Science Instruction and the 5E Learning Cycle: A Gateway to Scientific Literacy

In this investigation, 5E Learning Cycle strategies were implemented with the purpose of improving student understanding of the nature of science (NOS).  Forty-eight 6th-8th graders participated in the study.  The treatment for all groups involved teaching a four-week unit that included explicit NOS instruction.  Participants’ views were assessed with an open-ended questionnaire along with recorded interviews.  Results revealed improvement in participants’ NOS views for all eight targeted aspects.

Bonnie E. Daley

Think About it! Effects of Portfolios that Utilize Metacognitive Activities on Understanding of Middle School Science Concepts

The project’s purpose was to close the achievement gap between seventh grade honors, regular, and English language learners. Using portfolios with various metacognitive activities, such as reflective writing, conferences, and blogs, the results indicate that understanding of life science concepts increased. Students’ attitudes and motivation fluctuated but remained on a high level. The teacher gained insight into the effectiveness of reflection, student discussions, and review to increase student learning.

Ann Dannenberg

Can I Have a Do-Over?: Homework Self-Assessment as a Tool for Improving Student Engagement and Learning in a High School Biology Classroom

This project was undertaken to determine if engagement and academic achievement of under-performing high school biology students could be improved by implementing homework self-assessments. Students were encouraged to evaluate their own work according to a set of criteria, and were given opportunities improve their work based on the teacher’s feedback and evaluation by the same criteria.  Although self-assessment did not improve homework completion, students appreciated the opportunity to improve work based on teacher feedback.

Tracy Ann Dickerson

Are Biological Virtual Lab Investigations as Effective as Traditional Hands-on Laboratory Methods on Conceptual Understanding?

Decreased funding for laboratory materials has increased attention on virtual laboratory experiences. This project compared traditional and virtual laboratory experiences in classes of biology, AP biology, and anatomy and physiology.  Results show that students comprehended more information and were more engaged and motivated when using traditional laboratory activities. However, students requested the use of the virtual labs as a precursor to traditional labs in order to have a better understanding of the main purpose and objectives.

Aaron J. Eling

The Effects of WebQuests on Interest and Comprehension in an 8th Grade Science Classroom

This project consisted of the introduction and use of teacher-created WebQuests in an eighth grade earth science classroom over a nine week period.  The purpose of this study was to determine if using WebQuests increased student interest and comprehension in core earth science content.  The results showed that following WebQuests there was an increase in both classroom participation and student scores on lab activities and summative assessments.

Stacey M. Ellis

Student Science Notebooks:  A Tool For Improving Conceptual Understanding  

In this investigation, student science notebooks were implemented as a part of daily science instruction to fourth grade general science students.  Throughout the study, expository writing skills were emphasized and metacognitive awareness was highlighted as a part of daily science writing.  Students used the notebooks to record purposes, questions, predictions, observations, data, reflections, and summaries as appropriate.  Overall, student writing improved throughout the course of the study. 

Dawn Nicole Estrella

Spiraling through the Biomes: A Novel Approach to Teaching Earth Science in Middle School

6th grade science in California is a challenging subject for many students. In order to try to alleviate some of the frustration from the more difficult concepts, such as plate tectonics, the curriculum was rearranged in order to teach all of the topics in a spiraled fashion, with biomes used as an overarching theme. This method of teaching reinforced ideas, assisting students with retention of information.

Janet C. Fenker

Effects of Cooperative-Learning Activities with Assigned Roles on Understanding High School Chemistry Concepts

My students often work in groups, with some students off-task, leading to difficulties understanding critical concepts.  Throughout the study, students rotated roles, gaining an understanding of each role, and worked on group process skills while learning concepts involved with petroleum refining, organic chemistry, and thermochemistry.  The results suggest that students became more engaged, more effective group members, and increased their understanding of the concepts with assigned roles.

Devon M. Flamm

Teachers Perceptions of Science Inquiry:  A Baseline Study

Montana State Science Standards require teachers to teach science using inquiry.  A concern is that teachers have different understandings of inquiry. Survey information, science lesson examination and classroom observations were used to profile perceived inquiry experiences and teachers’ understanding of the inquiry process.  Results indicated that while some elements of inquiry were present in the teaching of science, there were misconceptions of science inquiry.

Michael J. Flamm

The Effects of Block Scheduling on Students’ Acquisition and Application of Science Process Skills

The purpose of my research was to determine if teaching in a block schedule made any difference in my students’ abilities to perform the process skills of inquiry as compared to a traditional eight period day.  I used data from two different school years with different schedules.  The data showed very little to no improvement in summative assessments and the process skills, but there was a favorable increase in the attitudes of the parents, teachers, and students toward learning science.

Emily M. Ford

Outdoor Informal Education: Effects of Using Questioning and Prediction Strategies on Student Interest and Attitudes Toward Science

To incorporate science as inquiry, this study utilized multiple field visits with extensive questioning and prediction strategies while fifth-grade students investigated a wetland area at the Arboretum. Project data were collected with surveys, predictions sheets, concept maps, and teacher observations and indicated that students were continually interested in field investigations as they learned science concepts. Student attitudes and motivations towards science increased while views of science increased in complexity.

Dennis Fulkerson

Scenario-Based Tests in the Science Classroom

Scenario-based tests present traditional test questions in the context of realistic narratives or stories.  Scenario-based tests require students to apply content knowledge to real-life situations and may facilitate the assessment of higher cognitive skills.  This study examined student performance, student opinions, and teacher perceptions regarding the use of scenario-based tests in high school science classrooms.  Suggestions were offered for the incorporation of scenario-based tests into K-12 science curricula.

Joshua Gates

Have You Heard?  The Effectiveness ofAudio Feedback in Improving Student Lab Report Writing in Physics

The differences between individualized MP3 audio feedback and traditional written feedback for student lab reports were explored.  The number of writing and argument errors, student understanding of the lab format, student and teacher impressions of the feedback and the time required to produce the feedback were tracked.  Both methods showed similar effectiveness, but the audio feedback was more highly regarded by the students and faster to produce for the teacher.

Cherri C. Gerber

Effects of Using Metacognitive Strategies on Problem-Solving Skills in High School Math and Science

Students lack problem-solving skills and are intimidated by the math-rich content in science courses. This study used writing-intensive, metacognitive-rich strategies, such as directed journaling with grade eleven Math, Chemistry, and Biology students, to improve problem-solving abilities.  The results show no changes in problem-solving abilities and understanding concepts; however, students perceived improvement of their understanding and development of concepts through journaling.  Teacher and student attitudes towards these classes did not change.

Tim Germeraad

Effectiveness of Incorporating Mnemonics into Science Instruction

Students’ ability to write descriptive paragraphs about scientific processes was measured after they received traditional instruction and instruction that incorporated mnemonics.  To compare the effectiveness of these approaches, students’ performance was assessed initially through unit tests and four weeks later through surveys.  Mnemonic instruction had a positive effect on all students’ learning and recall.  However, after four weeks, this effect was nearly double for students with the lowest reading abilities.

Lisa C. Green

Effects of Using a Series of Guided-Inquiry, Hands-On, Field Activities in Informal Science Education

This study focused on using guided-inquiry, hands-on field activities, such as investigating a wetland habitat, during multiple visits of 6th-grade Montessori students to the Arboretum.   The students were assessed for science concept knowledge, application skill, and engagement and data indicate an increase in each.  Also, students looked forward to return visits and the higher level of student engagement excited them to apply their learned skills to their personal lives.  

Paula J. Groeneveld

Effects of Using Formative Assessment Probes with Associated Learning Activities on Understanding Earth and Space Science Concepts

The project’s purpose was to better monitor the learning of my sixth-grade science students and increase understanding. I integrated customized formative assessment probes, both brief and comprehensive in nature that utilized graphics, as well as targeted activities to promote conceptual change of students’ alternative conceptions.  Results indicate that the intervention revealed my students’ alternative conceptions, guided my teaching to develop students’ conceptual ideas, and increased students’ long-term memory of concepts.

Jean Marie Kron Hagler

Foldables™: Science Memory Makers or Not

Foldables™, the creation of Dinah Zike, are three-dimensional graphic organizers that students build with paper and scissors.  The purpose of this capstone was to see if the making and use of these manipulatives helped to increase student content retention.  Upon completion of the capstone project, there was no clear conclusion about content retention, but a pattern of assessment type correlating to material presentation, did emerge.

Stephanie A. Hall

Physics by Inquiry: Making Physics More Accessible

Most physics classes are highly math dependent.  Few students in small schools have the level of math required to successfully navigate a physics class. This project used the Physics by Inquiry Tutorial to make the physics class accessible to all students regardless of their math abilities and to assist students’ comprehension of the physics concepts.  Students preferred the conceptual method of learning physics.  Test scores did not show desired improvement.

Lisa Dawn Hart

Using Modeling Activities in High School Chemistry

Despite having the desire to learn, many students struggle to understand chemistry concepts. One source of difficulty may be that the foundational particles of matter are difficult to envision.  This project used several 2-D and 3-D modeling activities to help students develop mental images of atomic structure and chemical bonding.   The results indicate increased understanding, strong long-term memory of concepts, greater engagement, and higher self-efficacy after modeling activities were employed.

Amy L. Haverland

Assessment for Learning: The Impact of Formative Assessment in the Middle School Science Classroom

Formative assessment and assessment for learning are not new to K-12 education, but they have recently gained tremendous importance throughout.  In secondary classrooms, summative assessment has often been the norm and transitioning to formative assessment seems daunting to those challenging this norm.  In this study, formative assessment was implemented in a middle school science classroom, and its impact was measured in terms of student success in two distinct units.

Angie Hewitt

The Effects of Self Tours on School Groups in the “Dinosaurs under the Big Sky” Science Exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies

School groups that visited the Dinosaurs under the Big Sky exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies between January and May of 2010 were studied to evaluate the effects of self tours on school groups.  School groups were divided into three categories including those self touring using an activity, those self touring without an activity, and those receiving a guided tour with a docent.  This project generated evidence that students participating in self tours have an increased understanding of major exhibit concepts and are more engaged when touring with an activity.

Kathy Pickens Hirst

The Effects of Using the 5E Instructional Model to Teach Science Concepts to 4th Grade Students

In this investigation the 5E Instructional Model was implemented to increase conceptual understanding of science concepts among fourth grade students.  Eight 5E lessons were initiated to teach the science concepts in the subject areas of measurement, properties of matter and mixtures, and the applied forces of energy and motion.  Through surveys, interviews and assessments the students demonstrated an increase in understanding of the concepts.  The students gained inquiry skills and related science concepts outside the classroom.

Seth A. Hodges

Evaluation Vocabulary Acquisition Techniques for Use with a Ninth Grade Physical Science Course

Many students arrive at high school lacking a basic science vocabulary. It is difficult for students to grasp many concepts of science without this vocabulary. This project investigated the effectiveness of two vocabulary acquisition techniques in a ninth grade physical science course. An analysis of assessment scores, along with student interviews and surveys, indicated that one technique can assist in improving student acquisition and retention of physical science vocabulary.

Miranda Hollow

Science Journals: Do they Improve Retention of Science Concepts?

Journaling strategies including lab write ups, reflections, and annotated drawings were implemented with the purpose of improving 8th grade student retention of science concepts. Data was collected during the study and six weeks later to determine retention. The results indicated that using journaling strategies in the science assists students in retaining concepts.

Katie E. Hubbell

Teaching High School Physics Students Electrical Circuits through Guided Inquiry

This study compares the effects of traditional methods of teaching an electrostatics unit, in which the teacher directly provides information to students, to a guided-inquiry unit on electrical circuits, in which students construct conceptual understanding on their own through guided experimentation with teacher questioning to guide the inquiry.   The results suggest that guided-inquiry activities improved understanding of concepts and circuit layouts and increased both student and teacher motivation.   

Deb L. Hughes

Get Outdoors:  Effects of Outdoor-Related Inquiry Activities on Understanding Elementary School Science Concepts 

This project focused on the effects of outdoor inquiry investigations on 5th-grade students’ understanding of ecology concepts and learning how to make observations. Data were collected with concept maps, teacher-created tests, and field observations and suggest a slight improvement in students’ overall understanding, long-term memory of concepts, and an increased ability to make observations and motivation to learn.

Dora M. Hugs

Apsaalooke Traditional Stories With Science Concepts

This project involved Apsaalooke elders sharing Apsaalooke traditional stories with the fourth grade students. After the stories were told, the class discussed how it related to the unit. One elder told the students how she was taught to tell the summer and winter solstices as a child. Through the traditional stories the students realized that stories told orally were really like the textbooks we used today to study astronomy and weather and climate.

Thomas A. Ippolito

Can Student Choice in Homework Assignments Increase the Return Rate and Increase Students’ Attitudes towards Science?

In this research project homework choice was provided to the students with the intent to increase student’s attitude towards science and the return rate of homework. Homework options were differentiated with the intent that students would feel empowered by having choice in assignments which would consequently motivate them to increase their attitude towards science.  Although the data collection outcome of this project yielded positive results, the increase was not dramatic.

Cathy L. Jamison

Effects of Using Guided-Inquiry Activities in a Special Education Setting on Understanding Science Concepts
Using guided-inquiry activities with preschool students identified with disabilities to help them learn science as inquiry was the project’s focus. Many hands-on activities were related to topics of buoyancy and the sense of touch. The data indicate that students had an increase in engagement, communication, and understanding of concepts.  The teacher developed more understanding of how students learn when their natural curiosity was coupled with guided-inquiry activities. 

Sara Elizabeth Jay

Improving Student Learning through the Identification of Science Misconceptions

Educational research suggests that the identification of student misconceptions in science can provide background information regarding prior knowledge to educators that can enhance instruction and lead to student success.  The focus of this study was to assess whether or not identification of science misconceptions would lead to improved teacher effectiveness and to the overall improvement of student learning.

Pamela S. Kaatz

Effects of Problem-Based Learning on Understanding Ecology Concepts

My fifth-grade students readily comprehend new science concepts, however, they struggle applying them in independent situations.  This project explored using Problem-Based Learning (PBL), a process that requires students to complete a series of steps in order to generate a solution to a real-world problem.  The results suggest that PBL positively affected students’ overall understanding of ecology concepts, higher-level thinking skills, motivation, and long-term memory of concepts.

Maggie Kane

Developing Independence!  Effects of Homework Engagement Strategies on Understanding Middle School Earth Science Concepts

This project focused on the effects of using various creative homework activities on seventh-grade student engagement and learning of Earth science concepts. Data indicate that middle and high-achieving students increased concept understanding, were more invested in the learning process, and had a more positive view of homework with the engaging activities.  Low-achieving and learning disabled students were overly challenged, and performed better with more traditional assignments.

Renee Kelch

Oh! I’ve heard that word before: Retention of Science Vocabulary

In this investigation vocabulary strategies were implemented with the purpose to improve students’ knowledge and retention of science vocabulary.  Students were given vocabulary tests prior to using think-alouds, vocabulary notebooks, and a word wall.   Immediately after using the techniques and again four weeks later, retention of vocabulary and concepts were assessed.  The results indicate there were greater increases in vocabulary knowledge, but not substantial differences in retention.

Bonnie J. Keller

Learning How to Learn: The Effects of Using Metacognitive Strategies on Understanding Middle School Science Concepts

To improve understanding of middle school life science concepts, 19 students utilized a variety of metacognitive strategies for doing homework, taking tests, and listening in class. The results suggest that learning and long-term-memory of concepts improved. Furthermore, most students indicated that they enjoyed discovering their learning styles and planned to continue using metacognitive strategies. The teacher survey data indicated a preference to continued use of these useful techniques.

Rose Kent

Effect of Homogenous Differentiated Learning Groups on Learning High School Biology Concepts

I teach at a small school with limited class scheduling, and as a result, I often have a wide range of student achievement in my 10th-grade biology classes.  To address this wide disparity in interest and ability, I used small, homogenous, differentiated groups to teach units on natural selection and human evolution.  The results suggest that students learning with differentiated instruction were more confident and better able to explain concepts.

Maya A. Lampic  

Concept Maps as a Tool for Students’ Independent Learning in 6th Grade Science

Independent learning, as in homework, is an important skill to develop for lifelong learning. This project looks at concept maps as a learning tool for homework of students with different learning styles. Students were interested in discussing their learning styles and the pros and cons of different methods when working with homework.The results show a positive student response to concept maps of especially visual learners.

Lorna Sue Lange

What are the Effects of Informal Science Research on High School Students?

This paper investigates the effects on high school students, teachers and park staff who participated in a field research project at Joshua Tree National Park including looking at types of measurements students could do accurately. Overall, student learning, attitudes, and beliefs increased. Teachers and staff felt that the program had high value. As to measurements, student effort was very good, but there difficulties were due to field conditions.

Erin Kelly Lynch

Effects of Formative Assessments Implemented in an Informal Science Education Setting

Students typically spend roughly 16,380 hours in a classroom between the ages of five and eighteen. In addition to these, countless other hours are spent in various informal educational settings which contribute to the overall education of the individual. The goal of this capstone project was to implement a range of formative assessment strategies to discover their best practices and utilize the data to inform future instruction. 

Mary L. Maier

Engaging At-Risk Students through Science Inquiry

The purpose of the project was to determine the best instructional practice with which to increase student motivation in order to gain conceptual understanding in at-risk alternative high school students who have not experienced success at their regular high schools.  The implementation of an inquiry-based instructional approach containing elements of cultural competency resulted in an increase in both student engagement and academic achievement in science. 

Patrice Malamis

Vocabulary: To Retain or not to Retain: Testing the Results of Varying Science Vocabulary Techniques on Retention

I have witnessed students learn vocabulary terms and concepts to get through tests, but are unable to recall information to answer review questions over terms they have “mastered”. This study worked to strengthen my students’ vocabulary knowledge over a course of 18 weeks in the 8th grade science classroom using four different vocabulary techniques (vocabulary lists, foldables, illustrations, flashcards).  The findings supported all vocabulary methods benefit the student’s vocabulary skills.

Dan McGee

Improving Science Problem Solving by Developing Math Literacy

One of the difficulties students experience in science courses are the ability to properly apply mathematical formulas in context. This action research proposal examines strategies to improve problem solving competency in science word problems. Students are given formula triangles, guided instruction in dimensional analysis, and increased emphasis in the integration of math and science.

Amanda McGill

Vocabulary That Sticks:  Helping Students Retain Science Vocabulary

Strategies were implemented in the sixth grade science classroom to improve students’ retention of science vocabulary.  Drawing pictures, word diagramming, word walls, and games were used to assist with vocabulary retention.  Students learned to use a science notebook to enhance note taking skills.  Results indicate that students' long term retention improved with strategies.  Further, they learned to include these words in science notebooks and during class discussion.

Stuart Miles

The Use of an Online Response Platform to Improve Student Response, Retention, and Completion of Science Current Events Assignments

Eighth grade science students were provided with web-based science current event assignments.  Students were introduced to an online response platform ( and given the choice of completing assignments using online responses or paper format.  Student response quality, retention of content, and completion rate were compared.  Results indicated that both completion rate and quality of student responses increased in the online responses group, with no changes in student retention of content.

Tami A. Morrison

Investigating the World Around us:  Using Place-Based Science Experiences

In order for young students to become active scientists they need to explore and investigate their world. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of long-term, repeated place-based educational experiences on environmental attitudes, environmental awareness, and students' views of themselves as scientists. The results indicated that place-based investigations increased environmental attitudes and awareness in second grade students as well as helped students identify themselves as scientists.

Mary K. Osman

Metacognitive Instruction and Student Achievement in Science Class

The purpose of this study was to determine if direct teaching of metacognitive skills would improve grades and attitudes towards education among ninth grade students.    Students were given direct instruction in metacognitive strategies and time to practice the strategies in class.  The data collected indicates that there was not significant improvement linked to the intervention, though observational data suggests that some students are benefiting from use of specific strategies.

Gerald Ott

The Effects of Guided Inquiry-based Activities on a Calculus-based AP Physics Class

Physics education research has demonstrated a need for physics students to become active participants in the learning process. To achieve this, guided inquiry activities were implemented into the AP Physics class. This study focuses on three different guided inquiry activities in the Forces curriculum. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected to measure the effectiveness and appreciation of the tutorials. The study indicated that these activities are beneficial to student learning.

April Patricia Peterson

Effects of Visualization Tools on Understanding Chemistry Concepts in Grade 10 Science

Students have difficulty understanding ionic bonding and nomenclature of ionic compounds.  This project focused on using visualization activities, including hands-on models and interactive computer activities, to help students understand these concepts.  Results show improvement in understanding concepts, student attitude and engagements towards learning, and development of mental images of the chemical structure of compounds but were contradictory for long-term memory.  Teacher attitude and motivation were also positively affected.

Alfred T. Poirier Jr.

The Effects of Implementing a Competency-based Science Curriculum 

The goal of this action research project was to determine the effects of implementing a competency-based science curriculum.  Competency-based education focuses on students demonstrating knowledge through performance assessments rather than simply re-stating information.  Performance assessments were assessed qualitatively through surveys and questionnaires and quantitatively with common final exam questions and the statewide NECAP standardized test. The results indicated that that students prefer to demonstrate knowledge through doing rather than being solely assessed with tests. 

Sarah S. Poletto

Investigation of Feedback in Place of Grades on Student Attitudes and Achievement in Science

This project investigated the effects of descriptive feedback versus grades on student attitudes and achievement within a framework of a research based grading system.  Students were given descriptive feedback on homework assignments and formative quizzes.  They were also directed to become more reflective about their own learning process.  This resulted in a positive shift in student attitudes towards the process of learning as well as gains in academic achievement.

Anne Powers

Doing What Scientists Do:  Implemeting Science Notebooks in a Primary Classroom to Improve Metacognition Skills and Inquiry-Based Science Instruction

Science notebook writing provides an effective strategy for learning and communication. Science notebooks were implemented in a primary classroom to determine if their use would help students’ metacognition skills and provide a framework to increase inquiry-based science investigations.  Attitude surveys, observations, investigation assessments and interviews were used in the study.  Results indicated that using science notebooks helped students think about their thinking and also allowed for more instructional time.

Page-Marie Price

Bringing Second Grade into the 21st Century: The Effects of Using a Smart Board in the Science Classroom

This study analyzed how the use of an interactive whiteboard, a SMART board, affected students' learning of the second grade science curriculum. Through a year-long process I determined whether or not the use of a SMART board increased interest, understanding, and mastery of science concepts in the second grade.   Results indicated that though the SMART board increased interest, it did not by itself increase understanding and mastery of science concepts in the second grade.

Holly Prull

Measuring the impact of science field trips at Central Oregon’s High Desert Museum

This study assessed impacts of the High Desert Museum’s Fired Up! field trip program on student learning, attitudes, and teacher perceptions.  Data was gathered using pre- and posttests, surveys, peer reviews, and observational notes.  As measured in pre- and posttests, the program resulted in significant knowledge attainment about forest management practices.  Surveys revealed participants were unequivocally satisfied with Fired Up!  Observational notes recorded students highly engaged in the field experience.

Tina Raeder van Stirum

Time is of the Essence: Implementing Mastery Learning in a 7th Grade Life Science Classroom

Implementing a mastery learning cycle into my 7th grade Life Science classroom was worth the effort. Student scores increased along with students’ attitudes and confidence in science.  Despite the amount of time it takes to create the parallel assessments, lessons, and projects, and the time for re-teach lessons, the mastery design is a beneficial one. The approach demonstrates learning can be a constant and that time is the variable.

Nancy Farrington Reid

“Hey, What’s your Problem?: Comparing Students’ Use of Problem Solving Strategies and Enthusiasm Between a Science Fair and an Invention Convention

Students’ use of problem solving strategies and their enthusiasm was compared between a science fair and an invention convention. Quantitative results were inconclusive. Qualitative data, which was deemed more reliable, indicated more problem solving strategies were used during the invention convention. All students were more enthusiastic before the invention convention with younger students most enthusiastic about both. Younger students were found to use more problem solving strategies in both.

Jonathan C. Reveal

The Impact of Teacher Feedback on Student Achievement in a Seventh Grade Science Classroom

This study investigated the effects of teacher feedback on student achievement.  Students used a lab report checklist, teacher’s written feedback, and a self-reflection process to revise their reports.  The work of low-achieving students improved 13.5%, while student work overall improved 3.6%.  Teacher feedback was peer-reviewed by using a criteria rubric specifically designed to evaluate the feedback.  Teacher feedback improved in four out of four feedback assessment criteria.

Paul E. Robinson

Introductory Astronomy Student Understanding and Interpretation of a 2-D Representation of the Earth

This project examined the difficulties introductory college students have with understanding a common visual model used in astronomy courses.  Pre-instruction probes revealed a pervasive misunderstanding of how to interpret a representation of the Earth.  Students were given explicit instruction on how to interpret such diagrams using 2-D visualizations and anchoring situations with physical models.  Post-instruction testing showed an increase in understanding with similar models, but more limited success with novel situations.

Susan R. Rolke

Classroom Climate Change: Effects of Cooperative Learning with Real-world Problems on Understanding College-level Environmental Science

My students are often passive participants in the classroom acquiring a rudimentary understanding of concepts.  This project focused on the utilization of student-centered learning activities about current issues that involved cooperative-learning strategies to help my students develop a meaningful understanding of the world around them.  The results indicate an increase in student cognition, and student engagement through the active exploration of concepts fostered by group cohesiveness and mutual trust.

Melinda K. Rothschild

Effects of Using Direct Instruction with Cooperative-Learning Activities on Understanding of High School Chemistry Concepts

Improving understanding and long-term memory of chemistry concepts and problem-solving skills was the project’s focus.  The intervention utilized directed instruction, a strategy that connects new to prior knowledge, breaks the learning process into steps, and allows practice of new skills with immediate feedback.  Guided-inquiry activities with cooperative-learning groups were also integrated into instruction to facilitate depth in understanding and promoted critical thinking.  Results indicate improvement in all focus areas. 

Jeff Salter

Effective Use of Demonstration Assessments in the Science Classroom

This study aims to determine the effectiveness of using demonstration assessments to promote student learning of abstract concepts in chemistry. Demonstration assessments are a non-traditional method of assessing student conceptual understanding. This involved students viewing a short chemical demonstration, making observations, and answering 3 to 4 questions assessing student understanding of the demonstration.  This was followed by a class discussion.  Results indicated that students did increase their understanding of chemistry. 

Scott Schaefer

The Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Standards Based Grade Report in a 7th Grade Life Science Classroom

This study is on the development of a standards based grade report that reported on academic and non-academic behaviors in my 7th grade Life Science classroom.  These behaviors were selected with the help of parents, students, and faculty members who also evaluated the final grade report.  This study found that a more inclusive grade report was welcomed by parents and students.  Both parents and students found sections on non-academic behaviors as well as teacher comments particularly helpful.

Michael A. Schoenborn

Finding Out What Works: Using Feedback from Volunteers in a Regional Wildlife and Conservation Education Program

Zoo Corps is a volunteer youth program for high school students who are trained to work with the public at a regional zoo. This project used surveys, interviews and observations to examine the Zoo Corps training program and its effectiveness from the students’ perspectives. The results revealed student interests and preferences for training methods. These findings made available a body of actionable information to help guide resource allocation.

Catherine Schuck

Leave No Child Inside: Environmental Science Studies

In this investigation, field-based science lessons were implemented with the purpose of improving student inquiry skills of questioning, observing, and communicating in field study and in the classroom setting.  During the treatment period, guided and modeled inquiry lessons in the outdoors led to a student designed inquiry study.  Students demonstrated improved skills as  naturalists and expressed more confidence in their attitudes and attention to details.

Debra Lea Schwake

Science:  A Means to Encourage Reading with Special Education Students

This case study project examined the use of science to encourage reading and vocabulary building skills of elementary special education students.  The study group was six students with different disabilities in a kindergarten through sixth grade resource room.  Each student was monitored for personal growth and the results indicated that putting a science project into weekly lesson plans increased students’ knowledge of vocabulary and encouraged them to read other books of interest.

Justin L. Smith

Assessing the Benefits of the Inclusion of Inquiry-Based Instruction in the Middle School Science Classroom

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects that inquiry-based learning (IBL) had in a middle school science class. The evaluation process utilized a mixed method approach, including both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. The data collected was used to examine if inquiry-based learning resulted in increased test scores, and also if inquiry-based learning led to a more positive attitude towards science. The results of the study concluded that assessment scores were mixed. However, there was a positive correlation between IBL and students’ attitudes towards science.

Karen M. Smith

Talk it up!  Developing Students’ Oral Scientific Literacy

Many students lack verbal communication skills necessary for academic success and daily life.  In this study, instructional strategies emphasizing the development of students’ oral scientific literacy were analyzed.  The data indicates that Science Talks, Instructional Conversations, and Cooperative Learning Groups positively impact students’ oral expression of ideas.  Exciting side effects observed include increased verbal participation of all students, students voluntarily assisting one another, and an overall atmosphere of acceptance.

Nichole Spindler

Girls in STEM: Increasing Interest and Awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Related Careers in Middle School Girls

In this investigation an all-girls after-school program was implemented in 7th grade to determine the effect on student perceptions when girls are exposed to female role models in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related occupations.  The goal of the study was to increase the interest and perception of abilities in female students in STEM subjects, and to promote a positive view of females in STEM occupations.  At the conclusion of the research, students demonstrated more open-minded attitudes, higher levels of confidence, and an increased interest in STEM fields. 

Jennifer Stadum   

Breeding Season Occupancy of Long-billed Curlews and Sandhill Cranes in Grazed Habitats at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

This project is the culmination of research designed to investigate the response of breeding Long-billed curlews and Sandhill cranes to cattle grazing at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Lima, Montana. Research procedures, analysis and results will be presented with a summary of how being a teacher/researcher has impacted teacher professional development pedagogy as a science instructional coach.

James Stuart

Using GIS to Enhance Sense of Place in the High School Science Classroom

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a software platform for layering geographic maps and other data together for visualizing and analyzing in a spatial context.   High school biology students used the platform to study characteristics of biomes, land use, and pollution within the local area.  As students begin to understand their local environment, they have the potential to make meaningful connections and attachments to that place that will provide context for further learning.  The results of the study indicate that a GIS platform can provide an effective tool for learning but that time for implementation and technical development must be considered.

 Bryna Thomson

The Impacts of Interactive Whiteboards in a Seventh Grade Life Science Classroom

Interactive whiteboards are being used in more and more classrooms around the country.  In this capstone project, 33 seventh graders were surveyed and interviewed comparing passive and interactive activities using an interactive whiteboard.  Students were surveyed about levels of participation and if they thought they learned from different activities. The results indicate that while participation increased for the interactive activities, students think they learn equally from all types of activities.

Bill Thornburgh

What Impact Will Wikis and Edmodo Have in the Science Classroom?

This study was conducted to observe the impacts that technology had on students in the science classroom.  Students in two different science classes were introduced to wikis and Edmodo, two Web 2.0 tools that are based on collaboration.  Each tool was used to increase students’ knowledge and engagement in the quest for further understanding of material.  The results of the study showed that the technology had a positive impact on some students in regards to learning, comfort, and the level of participation in the classroom.

Charlotte Waters

The Development and Use of Tools to Understand Student Conclusion Writing through the Process of Professional Learning Communities

This capstone project examined the work of six volunteer educators who collaborated in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) structure. The PLC performed thorough research to identify areas of common need among students and selected a goal of improving the quality of student conclusion writing in science labs. Two focus questions on the quality and content of student conclusion writing guided the evaluation. Data was collected on student writing samples and the impact of implementing a graphic organizer on student performance in conclusion writing was monitored. The data indicate that student conclusion writing improved in quality and content and that teachers working are effective at improving student learning.

Nancy Wells

Go For the Goal: Setting Personal Objectives in Biology

In this investigation, students wrote and tracked individual goals in general biology classes with the purpose of improving understanding and increasing motivation.  Feedback was provided after writing each goal and at the end of each goal cycle. Through the students personal reflections I concluded that most thought that writing goals helped them to learn the material and provided them with an action plan to study and review regularly.

Michelle Weber

Considering All Learners: Effects of Differentiated Instruction with Multiple Intelligences in Middle School Science

To help students understand life science concepts and improve engagement, I differentiated instruction using Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Students completed activities and projects based on these intelligences in small groups. The results suggest that students’ overall understanding and long-term memory of concepts was similar to other teaching methods, however, student engagement was greatly increased by differentiated activities.

Heide Westwood  

Increasing Motivation using an Interactive Electronic Whiteboard and Clicker System During Science Activities

The purpose of the study was to determine if utilizing an electronic interactive whiteboard and wireless response system increased student motivation during science activities.  Success of the project was measured by student surveys, interviews, classroom observations and teacher surveys.  The findings promote that teacher training is important for maximum effectiveness of whiteboards, and students benefited from interacting with the whiteboards and responders.

Sue White

Using Concept Cartoons as Formative and Summative Assessments in Biology

Concept Cartoons have been used in the UK since the 1990s as a means of addressing science misconceptions and encouraging discussion about science. This project focused on the use of visual representations of misconceptions to assess student learning throughout and at the end of two units of study in high school biology.  The results indicated that this visual approach was an effective assessment tool, especially when linked to lab experiences. 

Deanna Rose Zerbe

Taking Second Grade Outdoors to Develop Inquiry Skills

This study examined the value of developing inquiry science skills within the framework of the schoolyard.  Students conducted numerous activities in the outdoor classroom which promoted the use of science inquiry skills.  Activities included mapping our schoolyard and studying soil, insects, animals, plants, and rocks.  The students also developed an environmental project.  The results indicated that the outdoor classroom increased student interest in science and improved student attention to detail.