Resident Scientists in the Classroom: Secondary Science Students' Attitudes Towards Science in the NSF GK-12 Program Project Flowing Waters
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The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Texas Pioneer Foundation supported program Project Flowing Waters, a NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program, funded ten doctoral students in the Texas State University Biology and Geography Departments to serve as “resident scientists” in high and middle school science classrooms. This study examines the first two years of this program in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. The science teachers were from two junior high schools and one high school in the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMICSD). The education part of Project Flowing Waters was to provide SMCISD science classrooms with a “resident scientist” who would develop inquiry science lessons and describe their scientific research to secondary students. Project Flowing Waters GK-12 fellows, “resident scientists”, had two jobs; to conduct scientific research and to collaborate with local secondary science teachers on inquiry science lessons. Through this program, middle and high school students experienced resident scientist led inquiry lessons and field trips to enable them to master the science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, (TEKS) throughout the entire academic year. The purpose of this study to determine the secondary school students’ attitudes towards science before and after their experiences with the NSF GK-12 fellows, “resident scientists”. The primary data sources in this study are pre and post student attitude surveys. Other secondary data include applications, lesson plans, research posters, pictures, test results and demographic information.
We analyzed the attitudes of secondary school students (n= 126) in 2 science teachers classes in the first year and (n=284) in 5 science teachers’ classes that had NSF GK-12 Fellows. We compared their attitudes prior to and after their experiences with resident scientists. We analyzed their attitudes on six dimensions: 1. Beliefs About Science, 2. Beliefs About Own Science Ability, 3. Importance / Usefulness of Science, 4. Effort that they put into their science work, 5. Parent/Guardian Involvement, and 6. Expectancy for Higher Education.
There were significant differences (p<0.05) in students’ attitudes before and after a year with resident scientists in the first and second year. In the first year, there were significant differences in a positive direction in students’ attitudes towards Beliefs About Science in one of the two teachers’ classes. And, in the second year, there were also significant changes in a positive direction in students’ attitudes towards Beliefs About Science in three of the five teachers’ classes. Also, in one of the teachers’ classes there was a significant difference in a positive direction in their Expectancy for Higher Education.
Students provided comments concerning their GK-12 fellows, resident scientists, in the open-ended sections of the survey. The most frequent comments were that resident scientists were “cool” and “helpful”. They also felt that they were more clear, were interesting, taught a lot, taught with more detail, had good labs, and made science learning fun. In terms of aquatic science, the students commented frequently that they learned about endangered species, the ecosystem, and blind salamanders.