ISSN 1087-3430 Vol. 7 - No. 2 - December 2002
Thank you for your interest in the Electronic Journal of Science
Education, the first electronic journal of its kind devoted to the timely
sharing of science education issues via the World Wide Web. The editors and
review board hope you find the enclosed articles academically and
John R. Cannon, Editor and Publisher
David T. Crowther, Associate Editor and Publisher
University of Nevada, Reno
Table of Contents
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A Review of Research on Constructivist-Based Strategies
for Large Lecture Science Classes
Uric C. Geer
David W. Rudge
Mallinson Institute for Science Education
Western Michigan University
Science is routinely taught in large lecture courses at colleges and universities, despite longstanding research in science education and developments in modern learning theory that throws doubt on the efficacy of traditional lectures in helping students learn. While the liabilities of teaching science in large lecture settings are generally acknowledged by instructors and administrators alike, it seems clear that, for a variety of reasons both financial and systematic, large lecture courses are here to stay. Faced with this institutional reality, contemporary science educators have increasingly focused on the testing and implementation of teaching and learning strategies that can promote student understanding of science content/process in large lecture settings. As part of a grant project aimed at improving middle school science teaching , the following annotated bibliography on contemporary research on instructional strategies aimed at promoting student-centered, active learning in large science classes has been developed to assist science faculty in revising their courses to better promote student learning. References were chosen that: 1) provide an overview of the theoretical basis for the importance of active learning strategies for the teaching and learning of science, 2) provide examples of instructional practice(s) intended to promote student-centered active learning in large lecture classes, and 3) describe research finding(s) that bear on the efficacy of these strategies. Several of these references provide examples of discipline specific strategies used in biology, chemistry, physics and earth science lecture courses.
No Time for Venus Flytraps: Effects of End-of-Course Testing on Biology Curriculum in Two States
Julie F. Westerlund
Southwest Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas
Leslie K. Upson
University of Georgia
James P. Barufaldi
University of Texas
This study compared teacher perceptions about state-mandated biology end-of-course examinations in North Carolina and Texas. Heuristic inquiries, of five Texas and nine North Carolina high school biology teachers were conducted over two years. Data were collected by audio-recorded interviews, discussions, personal journals, observations and open-ended questionnaires. Results indicate that biology courses with end-of-course testing; 1) cover too many topics, 2) move at a rapid pace that is determined by the number of topics rather than student understanding, 3) replace biology curriculum instructional time with practice tests and other test preparation activities, 4) diminish emphasis on laboratory and field investigations and 5) are not based on scientific inquiry or student interests in biology. Our study is significant in three ways. First, it provides information through teacher perceptions about the influence of end-of-course examinations on curriculum and instruction. Secondly, it is unique in that it examines the influence of these examinations through case-study analyses conducted by researchers who were also practicing high school biology teachers. Thirdly, it is unique in that it compares the perceptions of biology teachers concerning end-of-course testing in North Carolina and Texas, states with the longest history of end-of-course testing.
Science History as a Means to Teach Nature of Science Concepts:
Using the Development of Understanding Related to Mechanisms of Inheritance
Justin G. Lonsbury
James D. Ellis
University of Kansas
Nature of science concepts constitute a large part of what it means to be science literate. Along with teaching science content, it is important that teachers use instructional strategies to teach nature of science concepts. This study sought to examine the degree to which integrating small amounts of science history material into "normal" instruction helps to teach nature of science concepts. The study also sought to assess the effects of history of science integration on the acquisition of science content knowledge. The study was of a nonequivalent groups pre-posttest design and consisted of two groups, the history integration group and the "normal" instruction group. The history integration group was exposed to science history content within a typical introductory biology genetics unit. The "normal" instruction group received similar instruction without the added science history. The results showed that the history integration group achieved significantly higher pre- to posttest gains on Rubba's (1977) Nature of Scientific Knowledge Scale whole test and testable subscale scores. No significant differences were found on any other subscales. The groups also showed no significant difference in pre- to posttest gains on a researcher/teacher-designed genetics unit exam. Although this study provides no definitive answers, it does show that incorporating manageable amounts of science history into "normal" classroom instruction has the potential to increase students' knowledge of nature of science concepts without detracting from content knowledge acquisition. At the very least, the study shows that incorporating science history does not detract from content knowledge acquisition.
Promoting Science Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners
Mary A. Avalos
University of Miami
Despite efforts to ensure that all students receive equivalent content instruction and fair assessment, opportunities to learn science may be limited for English language learners (ELL's), for various reasons. This paper addresses issues of science instruction and assessment with ELL's. First, the importance of science learning for all students, particularly ELL's, is stressed. Second, the current status of science instruction and assessment for ELL's is reviewed. Finally, effective policies and practices for science instruction and assessment that enables ELLs to become effective learners are described. Educators at various levels of the educational system should make efforts to provide resources and opportunities that meet the learning needs of all students, including ELL's. With innovative and creative planning, much more can be done without overburdening the current system. In providing quality science instruction for all students, the education system should prepare students to become educated citizens and to participate effectively in a multilingual and multicultural society.
Exemplar Lesson Plan
Using a Laser Learning Cycle to Help Students See the Light
Edmund A. Marek
Science Education Center
University of Oklahoma
Norman Public Schools
Special Section: Resources and Programs in Higher Education
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