Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Science Education

Major Professor

Dana L. Zeidler, Ph.D.

Keywords

Chemistry education, Laboratory instruction, Microcomputer-based, Pedagogy, Intellectual development

Abstract

The nature of this study was to explore changes in beliefs and lay a foundation for focusing on more specific features of reasoning related to personal epistemological and NOS beliefs in light of specific science laboratory instructional pedagogical practices (e.g., pre- and post- laboratory activities, laboratory work) for future research. This research employed a mixed methodology, foregrounding qualitative data. The total population consisted of 56 students enrolled in several sections of a general chemistry laboratory course, with the qualitative analysis focusing on the in-depth interviews. A quantitative NOS and epistemological beliefs measure was administered pre- and post-instruction. These measures were triangulated with pre-post interviews to assure the rigor of the descriptions generated.

Although little quantitative change in NOS was observed from the pre-post NSKS assessment a more noticeable qualitative change was reflected by the participants during their final interviews. The NSKS results: the mean gain scores for the overall score and all dimensions, except for amoral were found to be significant at p < [or] = .05. However there was a more moderate change in the populations' broader epistemological beliefs (EBAPS) which was supported during the final interviews. The EBAPS results: the mean gain scores for the overall score and all dimensions, except for the source of ability to learn were found to be significant at p < [or] = .05. The participants' identified the laboratory work as the most effective instructional feature followed by the post-laboratory activities. The pre-laboratory was identified as being the least effective feature.

The participants suggested the laboratory work offered real-life experiences, group discussions, and teamwork which added understanding and meaning to their learning. The post-laboratory was viewed as necessary in tying all the information together and being able to see the bigger picture. What one cannot infer at this point is whether these belief changes and beliefs about laboratory instruction are enduring or whether some participants are simply more adaptable than others are to the learning environment. More research studies are needed to investigate the effects of laboratory instruction on student beliefs and understanding.

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