Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor/Committee Member

Rick Eigenbrood

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Andrew Lumpe

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Derek Wood

Keywords

Authentic scientific inquiry, Undergraduate research, Assessment.

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of integrating original research projects in undergraduate science curricula on student learning outcomes. Integrating original research projects in undergraduate science curricula has been promoted as an effective approach to involving large group of students in authentic scientific inquiry. The study defines course-based undergraduate authentic research experiences or authentic scientific inquiry based on situated learning, and conducted a systematic literature review of the impact of undergraduate research experiences in science related disciplines. Based on an extensive literature review, a unique survey entitled Student Science Learning Gains (SSLG) was developed and validated to assess student self-reported science learning gains from doing authentic research integrated into undergraduate science curricula. Content validity, face validity, and construct validity were achieved via expert judge, interviews, and pilot testing. An exploratory factor analysis (principle axis factoring) with oblique rotation based on 222 responses showed that the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure (KMO = . 904) verified the sampling adequacy for the analysis. The overall Cronbach’s α = .94 indicated a high level of internal consistency for SSLG. The finalized SSLG consists of 29 items categorized into four constructs: self-efficacy and attitude (8 items), concept understanding (4 items), scientific inquiry skills (14 items), and transferring (3 items), which explain 56.98% of the variance in combination. In the next step, SSLG data from 403 students who enrolled in authentic research courses were used to conduct a confirmatory factor analysis to test the six-factor model explored from the previous exploratory factor analysis. Due to high construct inter-correlations, the factorial structure of SSLG model was revised and a second order three-factor solution was tested. The second order CFA model, with three dimensions of Interest, Concept Understanding, and Inquiry Competency, had a good fit, RMSEA = .049, and CFI = .952. Scores on the scale for measuring the convergent validity, discriminant validity and the internal reliability of the higher order three-factor model yielded good estimates. After SSLG instrument was validated, relationships between authentic research experience in undergraduate courses and student scientific literacy skills were examined using path analysis. Student interest, attitudes, tool and technique skills, and communication ability were mediating variables. The latent structural equation model fit was good (RMSEA = .058, CFI = .92). The number of authentic research courses did not predict scientific literacy skills, but significantly predicted student interest (β = .16), attitudes (β =.22), tool and technique skills (β = .24), and communication skills (β = .26). Interest and communication skills had a direct relationship to scientific literacy (path coefficient = .36 and .26). Participation in authentic undergraduate research as part of a science curriculum has a moderate but positive influence on student scientific inquiry competency. The practical significance of the study, limitations, and recommendations for future research are discussed.

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