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
E-mail: msse@montana.edu
Location: 401 Linfield Hall

Director:

Dr. Peggy Taylor

2012 Capstone Project Abstracts

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Jessica K. Anderson                                                                                                            

Effects of Questioning Strategies on Students’ Inquiry Skills during a Physics Research Project

To improve inquiry skills of physics students, 14 students utilized teacher-modeled and student implemented questioning strategies during a physics research project. Strategies included elaborative interrogation, introduction of effective questioning, question brainstorming and discussion, and peer and self-assessments. Students applied the strategies during their individual/partner inquiry investigations.  The results suggest that teaching students questioning strategies improves students’ inquiry skills and understanding of how science works.

Tanya M. Anderson                                                                                                                            

Science Notebooks:  A Tool to Promote 4th Graders’ Understanding of Process Skills and Content

Many students lack the skills for academic success and ability to communicate and understand scientific content.  In this study, science notebooks were implemented to   examine the impact on students’ understanding of the science concepts and process skills, especially observation and communication.  The data indicated that science notebooks and the inquiry process did positively impact students’ ideas, process skills and the development of scientific literacy.

Tom Anderson                                                                                                                     

Prove It!  Testing a Teaching Strategy to Develop Argumentation Skills in 9th Grade Science Students

Students explain their understanding of scientific concepts through argumentation. This study evaluated the improvement of argumentation skills using principles as stated by Toulmin. The study used a peer-critique activity called Prove It! Data was collected using artifacts collected from students including formative and summative assessments, interviews and surveys. Results indicate that students improved both their depth of curricular knowledge and sophistication of arguments in the description of curriculum topics.

Donald James Asbury                                                                                                                         

Integrating Science and Technology

Computer lab lessons were integrated with a current and relevant science topic and the resulting content knowledge understanding and attitudes towards science learning were gauged.  Lessons focused on two types of alternative energy:  wind energy and algae biofuel.  Student interviews, unit pretests and posttests, journals entries, and attitude surveys were used to monitor student learning.

Kathy Aune                                                                                                                                          

Improving Vocabulary Instruction to Increase Student Comprehension and Improve Science Literacy

The purpose of my project was to determine if better vocabulary instruction could increase student comprehension and science literacy.  Throughout the treatment the students spent more class time working with the terms for the unit.  This included activities that encouraged analysis of word meaning and comparison and analysis of relationships between words.  The results indicated that targeting meaningful vocabulary instruction resulted in gains in test scores, writing and speaking skills and student confidence.

Kristian Basaraba                                                                                                                

What Are the Effects of Computer Simulations on Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Newtonian Mechanics?

Computer simulations provide interactive environments that promote conceptual change in physics education.  It is through the implementation of a series of guided inquiry-based activities that these simulations will be evaluated for their effectiveness in improving conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics.  Results indicated that not only did the simulations enhance conceptual understanding but also have a positive effect on student achievement and attitudes towards physics.

Luke Beall                                                                                                                                                             

Metacognition: The Effects of Cognitive Strategy Instruction on the Problem-Solving Skills of High School Algebra 2 Students

This study investigated the effects of cognitive strategy instruction on the problem-solving skills of Algebra 2 students.  Various data collection instruments were used to determine the effects on students’ cognitive achievement, long-term memory, motivation and attitude along with the motivation and attitude of the teacher.  The study found an increase in students’ achievement and long-term memory.  The study also yielded mixed results for the attitude and motivation of both the students and teacher.

Adam Bohach                                                                                                                                      

The Social Outcomes of Whole Class Inquiry on Students in a High School Biology Classroom

An inquiry-based curriculum called whole class inquiry (WCI) was used to improve biology students’ scientific process and social skills.  The study found students improved their social skills while simultaneously learning the content.  Students at different ability levels were also assessed.  Results varied between classes due to differences in students’ prior experience with WCI and ability level.  Low-achieving students struggled more with social activities compared to their higher achieving peers.

Jason Boss                                                                                                                                                            

What Does Creating a Science Portfolio Show Students about Their Learning?

This study examines the effects of creating an assessment portfolio on student achievement and compares alternative assessment strategies to traditional assessment strategies.  During the study students reflected on assessments that they completed and created a portfolio to show what and how they learned.  This led students to realize their areas of strength and weakness and fostered a desire to grow as a student.

Angie Brist                                                                                                                                            
The Effect of a Contextual Approach to Chemistry Instruction on Students’ Attitudes, Confidence, and Achievement in Science

After fielding the question “Why do I have to learn this?” countless times, I decided to show my students exactly how the content I teach was important to them.  Instead of taking a linear textbook approach to instruction, I presented my chemistry students with a web of science, environmental, and social content derived from a realistic environmental scenario to evaluate how their attitudes and confidence in chemistry changed.

Jodi L. Brokaw                                                                                                                                    

Picture It:  Visual-Spatial Teaching to Improve Science Learning

The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether integrating a visual-spatial teaching approach would improve student test scores in the classroom and if students would retain the new content.  Visual-spatial activities were incorporated into the lessons on a daily basis to support the learning of concepts and vocabulary.  Assessments and student interviews were used to determine whether this style of learning was effective in the classroom.

Robin A. Cameron                                                                                                                              

Homework That Helps:  Identifying Aspects of Meaningful Biology Homework Assignments

Homework assignments were evaluated to see which types of assignments improved concept retention and increased the interest of diverse learners in introductory biology classes.  The assignments were differentiated, and the benefits were evaluated using several instruments.  Students communicated that homework assignments were a valuable extension of classroom learning.  They appreciated different types of homework assignments for varied reasons, including assignments they did not label as fun.

Lorilyn A. Chapman                                                                                                                           

Active Learning of Scale and Proportional Reasoning: A STEM Approach

Lessons from interactive and online simulations were used to determine if “STEM” principles would develop a deeper understanding of scaling and proportional reasoning.  Additionally, the study looked for changes in self confidence in problem solving along with comfort levels using simulations.  Conclusions drawn from this study increase our understanding of the level of motivation and achievement that can result from “bridging” the curriculum through the use of interactive online simulations.

Katherine Chesnutt                                                                                                                             

The Effects of Student and Scientist Partnerships on Students’ Understanding of the Nature of Science

This study measured the impacts of Student Scientist Partnerships (SSPs) on students’ understanding of the nature of science (NOS). Students participated in three research projects with three different scientists over the course of one semester. This study found that SSPs improved understanding of the NOS for higher achieving students, but slightly decreased understanding of the NOS for lower achieving students.

Joanna Chierici                                                                                                                                    

The Use of Explicit Instructional Techniques to Improve Student Literacy in the Science Classroom

A number of literacy strategies were used in a science context to see if improvement occurred in the students’ development of reading skills, comprehension of scientific text and vocabulary. The activities included reading techniques, discussion strategies and vocabulary activities. Results showed that after using these strategies, students’ use of scientific vocabulary increased, their comprehension of the textbook improved and their test results reflected this improvement.

David Chimo                                                                                                                                        

Effects of Web 2.0 Technology on Student Learning in Science

How the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies for research project completion affects learning in middle school science students.  Seventh grade students were required to use Web 2.0 programs for collaboration during data collection, interpretation, and presentation of researched material.  The programs have a positive effect on student engagement and research skills.   Students put more effort into their work and are producing increasingly better quality research projects.

Natasha L. Cleveland                                                                                                                          

The Efficacy of Using VoiceThread as a Formative Assessment Tool and a Way to Foster a Greater Sense of Online Course Community in a Hybrid Geoscience Course

VoiceThread replaced traditional lecture notes and discussion forums in the online component of a hybrid geoscience course.  This technology facilitated a greater sense of course community and instructor presence, which increased student engagement and learning.  The ability to make comments using various text and audio capabilities improved participant interactions.  VoiceThread conversations enabled me to have a clearer understanding of student learning, which I used to plan modifications in learning strategies.

Erin Colfax                                                                                                                           
The Impact of Infusing Science Poetry into the Biology Curriculum
The use of poetry in science may be one way to inform and enhance students' understandings of complex scientific concepts. The study explored the impact of infusing poetry into the biology curriculum. Fifty-one public high school honors biology students from Morristown High School were enrolled. This research demonstrated that there are some intersections across the domains of science and poetry that may assist in the comprehension of abstract scientific material.
Jordan Lacy Cook                                                                                                                               
Making Connections: Teaching and Using Concept Maps in a Fourth Grade Mathematics Class

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of concept mapping on students’ conceptual understanding of mathematics concepts, long-term memory, motivation, and teacher professionalism. Data were collected using assessments, journal entries, interviews, surveys, and anecdotal notes. Results indicated that concept mapping increased student motivation and teacher professionalism, while the results of mapping on conceptual understanding and long-term memory were mixed.
Matthew Cornelius                                                                                                                              
The 5E Learning Cycle and Students Understanding of the Nature of Science
One of the most important aspects of teaching science is to provide students with the knowledge and tools for them to understand the nature of science (NOS). This project used a teaching technique called the 5E learning cycle. This learning cycle relies heavily on the teacher using inquiry in the classroom to support the students learning of NOS. The results indicated a marked improvement of student growth in NOS.
Jennifer Courtney                                                                                                                
Effects of Metacognitive Reading Strategies on Understanding High School Biology Concepts
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of using reading strategies to recall prior knowledge, place new information in context, and identify areas of further review on understanding genetics and evolutionary concepts.  Data indicated that high-achieving students better demonstrated higher order thinking skills, while low-achieving students struggled with mastering higher order concepts.  Teacher attitudes and motivation improved during the course of this study.
Karla B. Cramer                                                                                                                  
Impact of Constructivism via the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E Model on Student Science Achievement and Attitude

The investigation involved implementing the 5E Instructional Model to determine its impact on student achievement and attitude in science. The effectiveness of the treatment in the science classroom was not conclusively supported by data. The results indicated that the treatment had a slightly positive impact on achievement and an insignificant impact on science attitude.

Tom Davies                                                                                                                                           
Effects of Structured Cooperative Learning Groups in a High School Physics Classroom
In this investigation, participants enrolled in high school conceptual physics classes were required to work in purposefully structured groups over the course of several weeks. Data from test scores, exit tickets, interviews, and attitude surveys, as well as instructor and peer observations were analyzed. Results showed students had negative attitudes about these groups, and test scores did not improve, but there were encouraging data about time spent on-task.

Kristina Davis                                                                                                                                      
The Effects of Homogeneous Grouping in Math Class on Student Achievement and Attitudes about Math
Students in fifth through eighth grades were placed in math classes based on their ability (homogenous grouping).  Results indicated that students MAP test scores varied greatly for each individual but most students increased their scores.  AIMSweb concepts and applications increased following the treatment but AIMSweb computation decreased following the treatment.  Students’ attitudes about math were more positive after treatment and students thought ability grouping did not really affect science class.
Jeffrey Edwin DeGlopper                                                                                                   
Increasing Teacher Reflective Practices across a Science Department
Teachers in a small, science-focused charter school participated in a structured program of guided and group-supported reflective practice in the hopes of both deepening and increasing the frequency of reflective thought.  While these goals were not achieved, individual teacher and group reflections brought to light two major obstacles to improved practice:  a focus on classroom management at the expense of academic issues, and a misunderstanding of academic rigor.
Joshua Dennis                                                                                                                                      
The Use of Self and Peer Assessments in a Middle School Physical Science Laboratory Setting
In order to determine the effectiveness of self and peer assessments for semi-structured labs in an eighth grade physical science classroom setting, students had the option of using a universal lab checklist over the course of five treatments.  Lab scores significantly improved for all students with scores increasing most for students who had used the checklist compared to those who had not.
Kim Devore                                                                                                                                           
The Impact of Science Notebooks on Science Concept Understanding in the Lower Elementary Classroom
In this study, the use of science notebooks was implemented with 2nd grade students to determine their impact on student science concept understanding.  I found that notebook use increased student concept understanding.  It impacted my teaching and the success of my lower elementary students enough that I will continue to use science notebooks for years to come.
Heather G. S. Dietz                                                                                                                              
 The Effect of Explicit Writing Instruction and Iterative Review in a Sophomore Microbiology Lab
I examined the effect of scientific writing instruction and of scaffolding journal-style lab report subsections.  My goal was to improve my students’ attitudes toward writing, to improve the quality of their lab reports and to increase their content mastery.  Data were collected using surveys and interviews, lab reports and exam scores.  Students’ attitudes toward writing in science and their ability to write lab reports improved more than their exam scores.
Kaye Ebelt                                                                                                                                                            
The Effects of Increasing Skills in STEM, Problem Solving and Teamwork through a Robotics Programs
In this action research project a 5th grade robotics program was studied to determine student attitudes towards science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), problem solving and teamwork.  The goal of the study was to determine the effectiveness of an after school robotics program.  At the conclusion of the study, the research indicated an increased interest in STEM education, greater appreciation for teamwork and more positive attitude towards problem solving and technology.
Nathan R. Fairchild                                                                                                                             
The Effect of Instruction Based on the Nature of Science and Eliminating Preconceptions on Understanding and Acceptance of Evolution
In this investigation, nature of science instruction was blended with evolution instruction that did not use words like evolution and natural selection for the purpose of increasing student understanding of evolution and increasing acceptance of evolution in middle school students. Student understanding was assessed with classroom summative tests, online surveys, and recorded interviews. Results revealed increased understanding of the nature of science and evolution and increased acceptance of evolution.
Jessica Felchle                                                                                                                                       
The Effects of Science Strategies Support on Identified Students with Learning Disabilities
Today’s inquiry-based science classroom is challenging for students identified with learning disabilities. In this study specific science strategy interventions were implemented over a six-week treatment period to support students with learning disabilities in the regular science education classroom. The data indicates that with appropriate content interventions, all students participated and engaged in the classroom environment with a greater confidence and most students saw an increase in their academic achievement.
Amy Flindt                                                                                                                                           
Probeware Integration in the Science Classroom:  The Impact of a Six-Hour Professional Development Workshop that Combines Technical Instruction with Implementation Planning
The data revealed that the professional development workshop had a positive impact, but was not sufficient for complete probeware integration. The participants’ average comfort level using the probeware increased 3.8 points on a 10 point scale, 94% of participants agreed that they were ready to use the probeware in their classroom and 65% of participants used the probeware within six weeks following the workshop.
Ryan Foley                                                                                                                                            
How Differentiated Groups Affect Fifth Grade Science Students
This study is a description of an action research project conducted by a fifth grade teacher in order to improve collaborative work during science investigations in a setting of a high-needs, high-diversity classroom.  Treatments for the study included complex instruction, flexible grouping, and team-building exercises.  Results showed that when using prescriptive treatments tailored to students’ multiple intelligence, students showed increased engagement during science lab times.
Rebecca Beacham Fulk                                                                                                       
The Effects of Current Brain Research in the Science Classroom
In this investigation brain breaks were implemented with the goal of improving student focus and learning in an afternoon science class. Different styles of breaks were offered each afternoon and the quality of learning was monitored. Though students felt certain breaks were ineffective, on task behavior and grades improved after treatment.
Jason Getz                                                                                                                                                            
The Mythbusters Project:  Effects of a Term-Long Inquiry Based Science Project on High School Student Understanding and Attitudes towards Science
This investigation was modeled after the Discovery Channel show MythBusters and sought to measure the effects on student understanding of scientific lab processes and attitudes towards science.  Students designed an experiment, implemented the experiment, and presented their findings to a group of their peers.  Results from this project showed improvement in lab skills, self-confidence, attitudes, and understanding in carrying out scientific research.
Kellina Gilbreth                                                                                                                                    
The Effects of Kinesthetic Activity on Secondary Science Student Achievement
The importance of physical activity in the classroom has been debated for decades. In this study, eleventh and twelfth grade suburban science classes were encouraged to conduct simple exercises at the beginning of class. While the overall performance, attitudes, retention of concepts and confidence of students showed no improvement, the data indicated that their in-class energy levels were more positively affected.
Vanessa Nashee Green                                                                                                        
Effects of Classroom Discussion on Student Performance and Confidence in the Science Classroom
Middle school can be a tough time for students to be willing to share their ideas and thoughts aloud in class.  This study challenges that unwillingness to speak aloud in class and teaches students how to appropriately participate in formal classroom discussions.  The results showed that class discussions can be used as another strategy to engage students to be active participants in their learning of science topics.
Lori Haack                                                                                                                                            
Effects of Web-based Collaboration on High School Students’ Inquiry Skills and Understanding of Genetics Concepts
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of Web-based collaboration on students’ essential inquiry skills and understanding of genetic concepts.  Multiple data collection tools were used to measure concept understanding, dynamic inquiry, critical thinking and involvement. Results indicated that although students initially struggled using a Web-based platform, increases were achieved in concept understanding, and critical thinking, while involvement had mixed results.
Charlotte Hagerman                                                                                                                            
Effects of the 5E Learning Cycle on Student Content Comprehension and Scientific Literacy
In this investigation the 5E learning cycle was implemented as the primary teaching method, with the purpose of improving student’s content comprehension and scientific literacy skills.  The steps of the 5E learning cycle were continuously carried out using a wide variety of assessments.  Though content comprehension did not increase dramatically students did show marked improvement in their scientific literacy and ability to think critically. 
Shawna Halsey                                                                                                                                     
Time to Wiki:  A Tool to Build Students’ Science Vocabulary
Developing a working science vocabulary is an essential component in student science success.  In this study, a wiki was used as an instructional tool to encourage student engagement and to enhance student vocabulary acquisition.  The data collected showed that student engagement in the science topics increased in units that were taught using the wiki, but was inconclusive in showing a connection to increased understanding of vocabulary or science concepts.
Angela J. Hammang                                                                                                                            
The Effects of Various Seating Arrangements on Student Achievement in the Biology Classroom
Seating IEP students in the front row might not actually help them learn. This study is about examining whether students perform differently when they choose their own seats compared to random or teacher assigned seating placements. High performing students experienced significantly more success in teacher chosen seating arrangements. Regardless of seating assignments, low performing students did not show improvement. How can teachers design seating charts to achieve optimum student performance?
Michelle Hammond                                                                                                                              
The Implementation of Mathematics Journals in Science Class to Improve Student Achievement
In this action research study mathematics journals were implemented to increase student achievement on lab reports and assessments. The journals were used in a variety of ways giving students an opportunity to reflect upon their problem solving skills and difficulties. Although assessment scores did not show marked improvement, student confidence levels soared during data collection and graphing activities.
Jeremy Harder                                                                                                                                     
The Effects of Digital Portfolios in Math and Science in a Fourth Grade Classroom
In this investigation digital portfolios were introduced as a means to improve student achievement in a math and science elementary classroom.  By utilizing digital portfolios in a web-based format and analyzing data from various sets, it was suggested that digital portfolios increase student engagement and interest in math and science.  Teacher best practices were also influenced positively through the treatment of digital portfolios.
Yvette Strandell Hart                                                                                                                          
Reading Strategies in the High School Science Classroom
Are teachers enabling students to be poor readers of science text by not routinely making reading assignments?   If students learn to use reading strategies, will they become more effective and willing readers? In this study, students were instructed in using six reading strategies.  Their reading skills, values, and attitudes were measured using standardized tests, surveys and formative assessments.  After treatment an improvement in student skills, values, and attitudes was noted.
Tori Hellman                                                                                                                        

The Impact of Rubric Use and Lab Report Performance on High School Biology Students

A rubric was used as a grading tool to evaluate student performance on lab reports. Three treatments were implemented. The rubric was used as a reference only, to critique sample lab reports, and for peer editing purposes all prior to writing lab reports. The research indicated that rubric use had a positive impact on lab report performance.

Annie Hesterman 
                                                                                                               
Communication Technologies in the Science Classroom and Their Effect on Student and Parent Engagement in the Learning Process

Throughout the treatment period of this project a variety of communication technologies including text messages, e-mails, school homework pages, and class websites were used to distribute information to students and parents.  Students were also exposed to various technologies during class time to examine their engagement and learning and were provided with online test preparation materials.  Results show higher test score averages, increased parent engagement and decreased negative behaviors during treatment.
Brian Holtzhafer                                                                                                                  
Science Fair Success: Helping Students Present Their Projects
In my school students have a choice of science fair presentation style. They may choose either a ten minute oral presentation or a trifold display board to present their findings. I recommended to students the style of presentation that best fit their skills and abilities to help them be successful. The study showed that an informed choice of presentation was not the most important factor in science fair success.
Brandon Honzel                                                                                                                                   
The Effects of a Data-to-Concept Curriculum in Science Classes
Both students and teachers were affected by the implementation and utilization of a data-to-concept pedagogical model. Student data from the Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning and the state of Montana’s achievement tests showed that there were no significant achievement gaps based on gender or economic status, but there was a difference in achievement based on Title I status. Teachers and students prefer the data-to-concept model to more traditional teaching methods.
Angie Hopwood                                                                                                                                   
Hosting Professional Scientists in the Classroom: The Effect on Rural Sixth Graders’ Attitudes toward Science
In this study scientists were invited into the classroom over a two month period to measure change in students’ perceptions of scientists, their willingness to pursue a scientific career, and how they value science.  As shown on the Draw-A-Scientist Test, Test of Science Related Attitudes, and student journals, positive change did occur regarding students’ perceptions of scientists, their attitudes toward the value of science, and science as a career.
Laura Hovland                                                                                                                                     
Differentiated Instruction in Elementary Mathematics
The purpose of this project was to study the effects of differentiated instruction on student understanding of core fourth-grade mathematics concepts.  Students were exposed to a differentiated instructional approach and were grouped according to ability levels to accommodate varying performance levels.  The data showed improvement in understanding of core concepts as well as increased motivation and attitude in both students and teacher.    
Jessica Hughes                                                                                                                                     
How Does The Use of Science Notebooks as Formative Assessment Increase Students’ Conceptual Understandings in Science?
In this study, kindergarten students used science notebooks as formative assessment to deepen their understanding of science concepts.  The class participated in four science units, two were taught as curriculum suggested and two were taught using science notebooks, with pre and post-tests to show growth. The result of this study showed positive effective use of formative assessments, such as journaling, helped students form strong conceptual ideas about science content.
Douglas Martin Janeczko                                                                                   
The Earth is Beyond Those Walls!  A Look at Outdoor Labs in Earth Science
This project measured the effects outdoor labs on student motivation and achievement.  Traditional labs were conducted and compared to field based labs.  The data gathered during these labs consisted of observations, pretests and tests, minute papers, interviews, Likert surveys and a teacher journal.   The results indicated an increase in student achievement which was greatest at both ends of the academic scale.  Student motivation also increased during field based labs.
Jennifer Jones
                                                                                                                                               
Teaching Chemistry In-Context:  The Effect on Student Learning and Attitudes

Chemistry content was taught in-context using real world examples to determine the effects on learning and attitudes toward chemistry.  Participants included four high school students in an advanced chemistry course.  The treatment included three in-context units: gasoline, biofuels, and plastics.  Learning was assessed using knowledge probes, focused listing, and learning logs.  Attitudes were assessed using surveys, interviews, and teacher observations.  Results indicated that student learning and attitudes were positively impacted.

Alan Kalf                              
                                                                                                                               
Teaching Evolution in a Christian School

An inquiry-based evolution unit that was scientifically rigorous but sensitive to students’ religious beliefs was conducted in three 11th-grade classes in a Christian College Preparatory school.  The unit used a wide variety of activities to engage students through five enduring understandings.  Student knowledge of and attitude toward evolution were assessed before, during, and after the unit.  Increased literacy and acceptance of evolution was noted in all classes.

Mark Kellogg        
                                                                                                                               
The Effect of Science Notebooks on Achievement and Attitude

Many of my students were unmotivated, took little pride in their work, failed to see the broad picture of the content and exhibited a lack of organization in their work.  Science notebooks, utilizing a blended traditional and inquiry based format, were used to improve achievement.  Additional strategies were used to improve students’ attitudes.  Results of the project show that the strategies implemented were effective at increasing achievement and improving attitudes.

Batya Kinsberg                    
                                                                                                               
The Effects of Differentiating Instruction in a Mixed-Ability Middle School Science Class

I differentiated instruction in four sixth grade science classes by tiering three lessons during one unit of study. I examined how this affected student attitudes, engagement and achievement and how it impacted me and my teaching.  Results indicate that this method of instruction did not improve student attitudes, achievement or engagement.  However, data indicates that students who were properly challenged had a better attitude about science class. 

Leah M. Knickerbocker                                                                                                      

Enhancing the Development of ‘Sense of Place’ Using Reflective Field Journal Techniques during a Traveling School Semester

This action research explored the effects of place-based education and sense of place in a natural science class at The Traveling School. The project examined incorporation of reflective practices to enhance students’ learning and development of sense of place.  Reflective practices were developed through formative assessment techniques and the use of a science field journal. This study occurred during a study abroad semester in southwestern Africa.

Karyn Ann Kretschmer                                                                                                      

The Effects of Incorporating Technology into the 7th Grade Science Classroom

This study incorporated the use of 21st century technology tools, including but not limited to student laptops, desktops, iPad applications, Smartboard lessons, personal devices such as Smartphones or iPods with internet access, photography, video clips and animations, interactive web applications and accompanying software, and other available electronic resources to improve independent thinking and learning, develop a greater mastery of science objectives, and increase student independence and appreciation for scientific studies.

Charla Lake                                                                                                                                         

Increasing Interest in Science and Science Careers through Partnerships with Science Professionals
                     
This action research-based classroom project was set into place to answer the question, “Do partnerships between science professionals and students increase opinion of learning, science in school, going to college, and students’ interest in pursuing science related careers?”  After six science professionals were invited to come into our classroom with a presentation of their choice, a positive increase in learning and interest related to science were confirmed by the results.

Mary Larson                                                                                                                                        

Increasing Student Interest and Achievement in Science by Integrating Science and Reading in the Elementary Grades

The purpose of this study was to incorporate the instruction of science in the context of language arts.  Students experienced science instructions as they read, listened to and interpreted language.  The students received greater instruction in science, enhanced their language arts skills, and indicated they enjoyed science more than pre-treatment.  Data revealed that elementary students can become knowledgeable contributors to society when taught how to read and interpret expository text.

Ann Leach                                                                                                                                                            

Evaluating the Impact of an Informal Elementary School Field Science Education Program

Outdoor environmental education programs are gaining popularity as a powerful complement to classroom science curriculum.  This study sought to develop an evaluation protocol to meet the needs of both a non-profit environmental education program and its elementary school partner teachers, and to evaluate the program’s effect on third grade students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards science. The data showed that students’ knowledge of science topics (especially geology, ornithology, and invertebrate biology) increased after completion of the program.  Students’ attitudes towards science were more positive post-program, especially students’ perception of the difficulty of science.

Candice M. Lommen           
                                                                                                               
How Does the Use of Digital Photography Affect Student Observation Skills and Data Collection During Science Outdoor Field Studies?

For many years I have brought my students outside to conduct field studies in our school forest, but have been disappointed in the quality of their observations and data. To investigate another approach to data collection, I incorporated digital photography into the field study activities.  My study findings indicate that digital photography did increase the amount of written observations, but only slightly improved the overall quality of data.

Hilary R. Lozar                                                                                                                                    

Including Parents in Classroom Science Nights

The purpose of this study was to increase the perceived value of school at home by inviting parents to attend small classroom science nights.  This would establish a more informal classroom environment, assisting parents in feeling more comfortable in the school in a general sense. The goals were to encourage parents to talk freely with the teacher, increase parental involvement, and break down stereotypes on both parents’ and teachers’ parts.

 

Hermes Lynn                                                                                                                                        

Guided Inquiry Using the 5E Instructional Model with High School Physics

The purpose of this project was to determine the effectiveness of using an inquiry teaching strategy on student understanding of physics concepts, student motivation, and student engagement.  Data were collected through written conceptual assessments, student interviews, observations, and surveys.  Results indicate that student gains in understanding were similar between the traditional and 5E units.  When inquiry was used, student motivation decreased slightly and student engagement increased. 

Jill D. Mahoney                                                                                                                                    

The Effect of Instruction of Visual/Spatial Thinking Skills on Learning Physics Concepts

Students with weak visual/spatial thinking skills often perform poorly in mathematics and science.  The high school juniors I teach who had low scores on a test of visual/spatial ability also had low scores on their physics assessments. The treatment in this action research project was to provide instruction in visual/spatial thinking by using a tangible object (in particular cardboard vectors) that the student could manipulate at first, and then guide the students to use their “mind’s eye” to manipulate the images without the manipulatives.  A large majority of the students have shown significant improvement in both their visual/spatial skills and their understanding of basic physics. 

Sibley A. Malee-Ligas                                                                                                                          

Effects of Using Formative Assessments to Increase Achievement in Second Grade Science

In this investigation formative assessments were implemented with the purposes of improving student conceptual understanding in science and instructional practices to inform teaching decisions and planning. Students showed improvement following the execution of formative assessment techniques. Students also demonstrated and expressed more positive attitudes toward science. Instructional practices which informed teaching decisions increased in frequency.

Kasey Marks                                                                                                                                        

Increasing Science Students’ Achievements through the Implementation of the Student in Good Standing Program

This study was designed to determine the effectiveness of the Student in Good Standing Program (SGSP) and the use of positive incentives as an effective School Wide Improvement Program.  The SGSP is a comprehensive school wide approach to motivate students in hopes that they will improve their academic standing and science education, decrease absenteeism, and reduce behavior issues in our school.  The results indicated that the program was not effective.

Cara Marlowe                                                                                                                      

The Effect of the Flipped Classroom on Stress and Achievement in an International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems and Societies Class

The intense study of the International Baccalaureate program often leaves students stressed over the amount and level of work required. By recording video lectures for students to watch at home, allowing students to work on traditional homework assignments in class with teacher assistance, and select appropriate assignments, students were able to achieve higher marks than previous semesters and reduce their stress level compared with other courses.

Joy Mayer                                                                                                                                                             

Effects of Using the Concept Attainment Model with Inductive Reasoning with High School Biology Students

The purpose of this project was to study the effects of allowing students to form their own definition of a concept.  Students examined positive and negative examples of the topic and used critical thinking and metacognitive skills to understand concepts.   A variety of data collection tools were used and the results indicated that students’ understandings, thinking skills, motivations, and attitudes improved.

Colleen Marie McDaniel                                                                                                      

Effects of Problem-Based Learning on Student Understanding of Advanced Placement® Environmental Science Topics

The goal of this project was to determine the effects of using investigations and analysis of problems to find solutions on understanding of concepts.  A variety of data collection tools were used to measure students’ attitudes, study strategies, and metacognition along with my attitude to teaching. Results were mixed showing improved understanding in one of the two problem-based learning units and no change with attitude for both the students and myself.

Miles McGeehan                                                                                                                   

Hybrid Learning:  A Study of the Impacts Felt by Students and Veteran Teacher Alike During the Completion of a Hybrid Online Module Rich in 21st Century Skills
                                                                   
The researcher built a hybrid online unit that was implemented by a host teacher with the purpose of identifying the impacts hybrid methodology has on students and veteran teacher alike.  The results indicated that a majority of students preferred hybrid instruction to traditional classroom instruction.  Meanwhile all students demonstrated strong achievement gains.  The host teacher fondly approved of the curriculum and would reuse the approach in future years.

Randy Metzger                                                                                                                                     

An Investigation into the Effects of College Research Shadowing on the Perceptions of High School Science Students

This study focused on the implementation of shadowing college researchers as a method for changing students' perspectives toward science and their post-secondary decisions.  There was no indication these activities affected post-secondary choices.  Interviews indicated these activities created excitement in the sciences, and positive discussion among students and family.  There was strong evidence of support for more opportunities afield especially that involving high school/college interaction.

Robert Moyer                                                                                                                                       

Evaluating Different Levels of Inquiry in the Science Classroom

The Purpose of this project is to evaluate six lessons that are at different levels of inquiry, in an attempt to find which level of inquiry is most effective for teaching seventh grade life science. Inquiry based lessons allow students to seek out and find the answers to questions, but how much investigating can they do on their own without teacher support. Through-out the study, lessons were developed that varied in the amount of teacher support. The lessons were then evaluated to note differences in, behavior, quality of work, and attitude. The student’s behavior changed with their comfort level in the lessons and their interest. Their quality of work and their ability to complete assignments increased when the student had greater teacher support. During the study the student’s interest in working in science actually decreased, mostly due to the fact that the work was perceived as too difficult. It was noted that through-out the study the students felt they were doing more inquiry than planned, this was consistent in each lesson.

Susannah Spradlin Murphy                                                                                                              

The Impact of Family and School Communication on Student Performance and Attitudes in Science

How much difference can communication make?  To encourage academic success and positive attitudes about science, I established a structured and supportive system of communication between my students’ families and our school.  Beginning with August home visits and continuing through the year, a culture of communication was created.  This focus on connecting between home and school made a positive impact on my students’ attitudes and academic performance in science.

Jennifer Narimatsu                                                                                                                              

Using Appreciative Inquiry as a Model to Encourage Students to Become Active Learners in Mathematics

This project focuses on the beliefs of positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry as a model to encourage students to become self-motivated lifelong learners. Students were given the opportunity to reflect on their personal strengths and learn ways to excel in their educational careers by using their strengths in their daily lives. Classroom activities focused on positive results and remarks instead of on the negative and poor choices that were made.

Kimberley Orr                                                                                                                                      

Bridges to Science: Effects of a Science Outreach Program on High School Students’ Understanding of Science Concepts

This study investigated the effects of hands-on science lab activities implemented by graduate students on grade 11 students’ level of understanding of science concepts, ideas regarding career options, and motivation.  The effects on classroom teachers’ professionalism, volunteers’ pedagogy, and the researchers’ involvement with the program were also investigated.  Data were collected using a variety of instruments and the results indicated the program had positive effects on most areas of the study.

Margaret Louise (Peggy) O’Sullivan                                                                  

Effects of Inquiry Based Laboratory Experiments on Students’ Comprehension of Biological Principles in a University Level Biology Course

This study investigated the effects of implementing inquiry based experimentation in the laboratory portion of a first year university level general biology course.  Students designed and performed their own experiments.  Data indicated that students acquired more comprehensive knowledge of the biological principles studied when they engaged in their own learning using inquiry based learning methods rather than using traditional non-inquiry based methods. 

Alisha Pablo
                                                                                                                                               
Increasing Student Achievement in Science by Improving Science Vocabulary in the Elementary Grades

How can understanding science vocabulary help students understand science content better?  Can more exposure to science vocabulary increase students’ knowledge of science topics?  These are the questions that I addressed in my capstone.  During the treatment, students used different strategies to help them understand their science vocabulary.  They worked throughout the two units using these ways to better understand science.

Sadie Peterson                                                                                                                                      
Thinking Logs, Concept Maps and Regulatory Checklists:  The Effect of Metacognition on Science Literacy

Students were given instruction in different learning styles and strategies for use in and out of the classroom.  Learning logs during reading, concept maps to assess knowledge and regulatory checklists were used to determine if student learning improved.  Students did not show a marked increase in use of these strategies after the treatment; however reading comprehension and attitudes toward science improved.

Melinda Reed                                                                                                                                       

Science Notebooks:  Improving Students’ Conceptual Understanding and Scientific Practices

The objective of this study was to determine if using science notebooks improved third grade students’ understandings of science content.  Secondary considerations included whether or not science notebooks versus commercial worksheets impacted students’ scientific practices and communication skills. As a result of this study, it was concluded that student science notebooks did improve students’ conceptual understanding and scientific practices.  Formative and summative assessments administered before and after treatment indicated quantifiable growth in conceptual understanding, scientific practices, as well as communication skills.

Marcie Reuer                                                                                                                                        

Backroads to Learning: The Use of Narratives in High School Biology

The ‘story’ of how science narratives influenced student interest and retention of concepts in high school biology. Does reading about quack doctors, circus sideshows and serial killers equate to higher exam performance or are these stories simply a detour on the road to real learning? To find out how this story ends you will have to attend this session. 

Daniel Rudolf                                                                                                                       

Effect of Outdoor Education Methods and Strategies on Student Engagement in Science: A Descriptive Study

Keystone Science School (KSS) is a residential outdoor education facility set high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Data from more than 300 students, teachers, and through direct outdoor lesson observations was collected and analyzed to describe how KSS uses outdoor education methods and strategies to affect student engagement in science.  The focus of this study was on how these techniques differ from typical learning experiences, and their value to fostering positive attitudes in science.

Joe M. Ruffatto                                                                                                                                    

The Impact of Manipulative Models on Student Understanding of, Engagement in, and Confidence in Abstract Biological Processes

The purpose of this action research project was to investigate the efficacy of the use of hands on manipulative models in order to teach abstract biochemical processes.  Students utilized enactive modeling of cellular respiration, protein synthesis and other processes in order to advance to symbolic understanding of these subjects.  Results showed increases in student engagement in during these lessons and some improvement in student understanding of the topics. 

Marco Santarelli                                                                                                                   

Science Notebooks:  Can They Replace Traditional Lab Reports?

Laboratory experiments have been used by educators for over two centuries.  My project will measure the effectiveness of a typewritten lab report against a well-structured science notebook as an assessment tool.  A series of laboratory experiments will be used to measure the usefulness of the two approaches.  Surveys, quizzes, exit tickets and several interviews will be conducted and the results compared. The data from these sources will be analyzed and conclusions will be drawn.

Michele Schaub
                                                                                                                                               
The Effects of Promethean Boards on Third Graders’ Achievement and Self Confidence in Math

The purpose of the study is to evaluate the use of Promethean interactive boards for teaching and learning math in a 3rd grade classroom and its impact on students’ knowledge of and self-confidence in math.  The project covered a six -month span and three different math units.  Data collection consisted of standardized tests, muddy points, and self-confidence surveys.

Anne Farley Schoeffler                                                                                                        

Using Training in Metacognitive Skills (Question Strategies) to Enhance Constructivist Science Learning

The study takes a constructivist approach, teaching students to identify and apply questioning techniques to new information.  Student questions and answers were collected prior to and following the question intervention.  Additionally, a comparison of summative assessments and confidence surveys was made.  Evidence supported the claim that students could be taught to ask higher level questions and extend that skill to answer questions also. Summative scores and confidence increased as well.

Rachel Screnar                                                                                                                                     

Effects of Using Differentiated Math Instruction in a Mixed-Ability Fifth-Grade Classroom

This study focused on the effects of using differentiated instruction on students’ level of understanding of fifth grade math concepts and on student and teacher motivation and engagement.  A variety of data collection tools were used and the results indicated that differentiated instruction increased students’ understanding and level of understanding of fifth-grade math concepts very much.  Student and teacher motivation and engagement also increased.

Matthew J. Shargel                                                                                                                              

Effects of Guided and Unguided Instruction Using 1-to-1 Student iPads in 6th Grade Science

To examine some of the educational effects of iPads in the classroom, students in a 6th grade science class were tracked over four units. Two involved use of iPads, and two units employed traditional, paper-based activity.  Instructional formats were also varied between guided, explicit and unguided, implicit forms.  The results showed little educational difference with the proposed treatments.  Student attitudes towards science declined slightly during units involving guided instruction.

Jennifer Sherburn                                                                                                                               

Increasing the Effectiveness of Classroom Chemistry Demonstrations

This study determined the level of effectiveness of a demonstration when several factors of the traditional “show ‘em and tell ‘em” demonstration format are changed. The study showed an increase in demonstration effectiveness or student learning and retention when students were required to record observations and respond to prompts on a teacher-generated “Demo Sheet.” Additionally, the research indicated an increase in students learning when students are placed in a small peer group prior to instructor explanation in order to discuss observations and prior knowledge.

Aaron Shotts                                                                                                                                        
Effects of Root Word and Affix Instruction on Understanding Sixth-Grade Life Science
This study investigated the effects of Latin and Greek-based root word, prefix, and suffix instruction on students’ understanding of life science vocabulary.  Data collection instruments included assessments, surveys, concept interviews, journaling, and classroom observations. Results regarding the effects on understanding and long-term memory were inconclusive. Students’ ability to predict new vocabulary meanings improved. Students’ attitudes and motivation were not affected and my attitudes were at first positive, but later declined.
Carolyn Slagle
               
Effects of the Unit Organizer Routine in Seventh Grade Science

This investigation examines the effects of using the Unit Organizer Routine in an inclusion seventh grade science classroom.  The study included 126 male and female students and spanned approximately three months.  Results showed that the instructional tool may have contributed to improvements in understanding of content concepts, some facets of science self-efficacy, self-regulatory behaviors and academic performance.

LaCee Small                                                                                                                                         

Effects of Data-Driven Instruction and Goal Setting on Science Learning and Test Scores

Data-driven instruction and goal setting are by no means new to the field of education. This study examined how data-driven instruction combined with student goal setting affected test scores and student engagement as well as how it affected my teaching practices.  Analysis of surveys, test scores, journals, and interviews indicate that while there was no significant improvement in student engagement in science, test scores did increase and students enjoyed the goal setting process and felt that it helped their learning.

Dale Spady

Storytelling in the Science Classroom
During the treatment period, the teacher introduced each unit of study with a storytelling.  The story remained the centerpiece of learning from which sprang reflective discussion and experimentation.  The results of the study indicated that this instructional approach can be used to promote enthusiasm and scientific thinking in the classroom.

Stephanie Statema                                                                                                                               

Using Graphic Organizers to Develop and Build upon Prior Knowledge in Transitional Level Science Classes

This study was implemented in a transitional-level physics course for students who struggle with math and/or reading. Identifying and building upon prior knowledge is a major struggle for most students in the class. The study involved using two specific graphic organizers (the Six-Step Topical Guide and Four Corners and a Diamond organizer) to help students access, develop, and build upon their prior knowledge in reading, note-taking and problem solving.

Lauren Stepro      
                                                                                                                               
Integrating Science Content with Literacy in the Elementary Classroom

This project sought to integrate science content with literacy instruction in a fourth grade classroom in Virginia. Students read science content books during small group guided reading instruction and visits to the classroom literacy centers. Evidence from student surveys and interviews as well as classroom and district assessments showed there was a positive impact on students’ knowledge of the science content and their interest in reading science content books.

Lisa Russell Stevens                                                                                                                            

Culturally Responsive Formative Assessment to Enhance Learning in Math and Science Instruction for Native American K-5 Students

Surveys, interviews, observations, and a checklist of formative assessment examples were given to a group of K-5 teachers to find baseline data on the different types and frequency of culturally responsive formative assessment in their classrooms.  Each method of data collection focused on how cultural responsiveness is integrated into formative assessment to improve instruction for groups of children in a school with a high percentage of Native American students.

Reba K. Strom
                                                                                                                                               
Using Guided Inquiry to Improve Process Skills and Content Knowledge in Primary Science

This mixed methods study describes how student process skill development can simultaneously increase content knowledge of 2nd graders in a school serving a majority of Native American children.  The Exploratorium inquiry model was used to teach primary students science content regarding life cycles, living and nonliving, and plant and animal features. Findings showed an increase in content knowledge of students and development of process skills, especially observation, questioning and communicating.

Melissa Anne Sullivan                                                                                                                         

Garden to Plate:  The Effects of Garden-based Learning on Student Understanding and Environmental Engagement

In this investigation, student participation in the organic garden project was used to determine whether this activity encouraged student learning and environmental awareness.   Students were given responsibility for all aspects of the garden program from choosing seeds to running the on-campus farmers’ market.  Student interest in gardening and knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices increased over the course of the project.  Connections to content from AP Environmental Science were also strengthened.

Clinton Swartz                                                                                                                     

Effects of Digital Data Collection and Analysis on Understanding High Chemistry Concepts

The purpose of this project was to study the effects of using class activities and experiments that utilized various forms of digital data collection and analysis on understanding chemistry concepts.  Multiple data collection instruments were used and the results indicated minor improvements in student understanding and student and teacher motivation.   Student data analysis skills and conclusion making also showed improvements as a result of the project.

Brandy L. Thrasher                                                                                                                            

The Effects of Student Self-Assessment in Science

This investigation implemented various self-assessment practices and evaluated the effectiveness on student achievement, self-confidence and mastery of science concepts. The study included 30 eighth grade students with varying academic abilities.  The treatment was implemented over the course of four physical science units spanning from November through February. Student attitudes were evaluated through the pre and post-treatment survey data from the Student Attitude Inventory and Course-Related Self-Confidence Survey.

Lizabeth A. Townsend
                                                                                                               
The Effects of Laboratory-Based Activities on Student Attitudes toward Science

The purpose of this action research-based classroom project was to study the effects of laboratory-based activities on student attitudes toward science.  Fifth grade students were taught science over a five month period using the regular science text and additional labs that were developed by the teacher or other professionals.  Pre and post data were compared to determine whether or not student attitude toward science changed after that period.

Molly Russell Underwood                                                                                   

Assessing Assessment: The Impact of Formative Assessment Training on Science Teacher Classroom Methods

Formative assessment is a method for evaluating student needs and is unique from traditional summative assessment in implementation and outcome.  To better understand how university coursework in formative assessment changes science teacher classroom practices, cohorts enrolled in the MSSE program participated in this study.  A gradual increase in the use of formative assessment observed over time demonstrated that formal university training in these methods gives rise to new assessment practices.

Jay Walls                                                                                                                                                              

Physics through Collaboration

This study entitled, “Physics through Collaboration” was conducted at Pender Harbour Secondary in British Columbia, Canada. Social connections between students and physicists on field trips, as well as between peers in the classroom, were made using interactive engagement (IE) techniques. Research showed IE to be an effective way to teach physics concepts, increase student enjoyment of learning and cultivate a greater sense of self-efficacy towards physics curriculum.

Tylene M. Walters                                                                                                                

How Implementing a Daily Participation Grade in 5th Grade Science Affects Student Learning

How can student daily participation be increased in science class? To try to improve daily participation, I implemented daily participation rubrics for students and teacher through three treatment and three non-treatment cycles. Surveys and interviews were also completed by the students. The results from this action research show that student participation improved throughout the treatment cycles.

Paula Wang                                                                                                                                          

Nest Taphonomy of Poplar Island Common Terns and Caribbean Flamingos of the Smithsonian National Zoo

Some theropod dinosaur nesting localities suggest egg incubation in a manner similar to birds. Two modern avian ground nesting sites with different nest structure were studied as potential models. Eggshell concentration and orientation were examined in post-reproductive Common Tern and Caribbean Flamingo nests, along with nest density and distribution. Eggshell fragments were more abundant at nest centers; hatched and predated nests favored concave-up orientation, whereas actively trampled areas favored concave-down.

Lee Weldon                                                                                                                           

Increasing Student Understanding and Attitude in Science Using Place-based Education

The purpose of this investigation was to determine if using place-based educational strategies increased fifth grade students’ understanding and attitude while studying science topics. The nine week study included a variety of place-based educational approaches to teach students about ecosystems, biomes, and weather and climate. Data collected showed evidence that the use of place-based educational strategies does enhance students’ understanding and attitude.

Rachel M. White                                                                                                                  

The Impact of Note Taking Strategies in a Ninth Grade Earth Science Course

Note taking is part of life and learning, inside and outside of the classroom. High school students sometimes have difficulty taking notes during a lecture. This observation inspired this study of the impact of different note taking strategies on student achievement and engagement during short lectures.  Self-generated notes, Partial (empty-outlines), and Guided notes were implemented.  Most students preferred Guided notes and most performed best on formative assessments with Guided notes.

Wendy D. Whitmer                                                                                                                             

Introducing a Lab Component into an Astronomy 101 Lecture Course

This descriptive study follows the work of an Astronomy 101 Community College instructor during the transition of a lecture based course to a lecture/lab course.  This paper discusses the process of transition, including a conceptual framework, establishing course goals, finding and implementing labs, and examining and analyzing student assessment data to measure the effectiveness of the labs.  Instructional and pedagogical changes are also presented.

Rachel Lee Zupke                                                                                                                

Attitudes toward Science:  How Technology Impacts Student Engagement and Success

Information and communication technologies (ICT) were implemented with the purpose of improving student performance and increasing positive student attitudes toward the learning of science.  Classroom activities, homework assignments, and alternative assessment forms were used in various ICT formats.  Students demonstrated an increase in positive attitudes toward science through technology-based modalities but student academic performance was not affected by the use of ICT in instruction.