Immersing students in authentic experiences and scientific practices to increase achievement, motivation, and attitudes towards science
Fisher, Matthew Rath
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Efforts to reform science education focus on implementing constructivist teaching strategies and engaging students in scientific practices. This paper assessed how implementing these strategies affected student achievement, motivation, and views towards science in a community college biology course for non-science majors. The intervention consisted of lecture and lab activities spanning the entire semester. The lab activities required students to collect, analyze, and interpret data and communicate their results. A special lab unit towards the end of the semester included field trips and inquiry-based labs that all focused on the topic of water treatment. Data for this study were collected in the form of surveys, assessments, interviews, and teacher observation. Survey results indicated that the intervention had no significant change on students' levels of motivation or views towards science. However, all students interviewed reported that the class increased their understanding of the nature of science, especially as it relates to empiricism. In addition, opinions expressed during student interviews regarding motivation were positive about the fieldtrips and lab experiments; therefore, results from interviews and surveys were sometimes contradictory. Likert items for the nature of science survey developed specifically for this study were highly correlated to one another. Students demonstrated remarkable and statistically significant gains in content knowledge after the intervention. The results from this study should be viewed cautiously due to the low sample size and the lack of a control classroom. However, they do provide meaningful information about what aspects of the intervention can continued to be used and which need modification.