Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Major

Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense

5-12-2014

Graduate Advisor

Charles R. Granger, Ph.D.

Committee

Lisa Dorner

Alan Newman

Angela Kohnen

Abstract

This teacher research study documents the processes used to help students in an all-female, religious-based high school create science fair projects that are personally meaningful, scientifically sophisticated and up-to date in terms of science content. One-hundred sixteen young women in an honors chemistry class were introduced by their teacher to the methods used by science journalists when researching and crafting articles. The students then integrated these strategies into their science fair research through collaborative classroom activities designed by their teacher. Data collected during the process included audio and video tapes of classroom activities, student interviews, process work, finished projects, email conversations and the reflective journaling, annotated lesson plans, and memories of the lived experience by the teacher. The pedagogical changes which resulted from this project included the use of Read Aloud-Think Alouds (RATA) to introduce content and provide relevance, a discussion based topic selection process, the encouragement of relevant topic choices, the increased use of technology for learning activities and for sharing research, and an experimental design process driven by the student’s personally relevant, topic choice. Built in feedback loops, provided by the teacher, peer editors and an outside editor, resulted in multiple revisions and expanded opportunities for communicating results to the community-at-large. Greater student engagement in science fair projects was evident: questioning for understanding, active involvement in decision making, collaboration within the classroom community, experience and expertise with reading, writing and the use of technology, sense of agency and interest in science related activities and careers all increased. Students communicated their evolving practices within the school community and became leaders who promoted the increased use of technology in all of their classes. Integrating journalistic practices into the research projects of these honors chemistry students also brought about positive changes in the attitude of the students toward science. The pedagogy implemented was successful at increasing the engagement of the participants in their own learning processes as well as increased interest in science. Moreover, the teacher researcher has expanded her skill set and is transitioning toward a more student-centered classroom. While this study focused on 116 honors chemistry students over the course of three years, it identified changes in practices that can be taken up and examined more broadly by science teachers who include science fairs as part of their curriculum.

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