Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Thinking like scientists: Using a graphic organizer to support scientific reasoning in laboratory investigations
by Ellis, Brian, M.A., University of California, Davis, 2009, 210; 1470283
Abstract (Summary)

Research Question. How does a two-column T–chart affect scientific reasoning in inquiry-based laboratory writing?

Subquestions. (1) Are there any differences or similarities in development of reasoning skills (as measured by a rubric) between high and low performing students as a result of this intervention? (2) Are there any differences or similarities in student outcomes between male and female students as a result of this intervention? (3) Does the t-chart affect students' understanding of the nature of science?

Research Activities. This research investigated the utility of a T-chart technique for supporting students' scientific reasoning during inquiry-based laboratory investigations. The T-chart provided a framework wherein students wrote claims connected to experimental evidence, and served as a pre-writing graphic organizer for laboratory conclusions. Context: This study took place at a college preparatory high school in an urban Northern California city. The focus group was a high school physics class (n = 28) including students of multiple ethnicities and various socio-economic statuses. Methods and Data: Students were taught the T-chart strategy on a murder mystery then utilized it during three inquiry-based laboratory investigations over an eight-week span. In each case, students collected and examined data then made claims that answered the research questions. They completed a T-chart, then were taught the physics principles illustrated by the lab. Finally, they wrote a conclusion arguing why the evidence supported their claim, incorporating the principles to strengthen their argument. Students' T-charts and conclusions were scored on a rubric, revealing common errors. Teacher reflections tracked class discussions and student behavior. Surveys were given before, during, and after the intervention to assess students' attitudes and science process knowledge. Results: Average rubric scores increased in all rubric categories, showing that the intervention slowly improved students' scientific reasoning skills on inquiry-based laboratory investigations. Most students expressed on opinion surveys that the strategy helped them understand the physics content in labs more deeply. Responding to a broader attitudinal survey, students felt on average that they had more self-efficacy, worked more purposefully on labs, and discussed their reasoning in class more often after the intervention than before it began. A comparison of students' prior performance in the class against their rubric scores on each laboratory showed a very weak correlation (Pearson r2 < 0.1), indicating that students of all ability levels were challenged to produce scientific reasoning. On average, no difference in rubric achievement was observed between male and female students. The T-chart framework also helped most students understand the nature of science, as shown by their increasingly sophisticated responses to a science-specific survey.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rojas, Jacqueline B.
Commitee: Ballard, Heidi L., Pomeroy, J. Richard
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 48/02M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Secondary education, Science education
Keywords: Graphic organizer, Inquiry learning, Laboratory, Physics, Scientific reasoning, Scientific writing
Publication Number: 1470283
ISBN: 978-1-109-48748-0
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