AN INQUIRY INTO INQUIRY SCIENCE TEACHING IN wp841zm8200/MFigueroa... · an inquiry into inquiry science…

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    Maria Figueroa

    May 2011


    This dissertation is online at:

    2011 by Maria Jose Figueroa Cahn Speyer. All Rights Reserved.

    Re-distributed by Stanford University under license with the author.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

  • I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequatein scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

    Richard Shavelson, Primary Adviser

    I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequatein scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

    Edward Haertel

    I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequatein scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

    Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo

    Approved for the Stanford University Committee on Graduate Studies.

    Patricia J. Gumport, Vice Provost Graduate Education

    This signature page was generated electronically upon submission of this dissertation in electronic format. An original signed hard copy of the signature page is on file inUniversity Archives.


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    Science education in different parts of the world has focused on teaching facts and

    concepts transmitted by a teacher in a lecture-style approach. In contrast, some initiatives,

    such as inquiry-based science teaching, use scientific inquirywhat scientists do to

    generate new knowledgeas a basis for teaching science to students. That is, inquiry-

    science teaching focuses on getting students to do what scientists do and how they learn

    about natural phenomena. This is not to say inquiry-science teaching ignores facts and

    concepts; it goes beyond transmission.

    Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) programs have been implemented

    throughout the world, with the objective of improving science education. Even though

    IBSE programs have received wide attention and substantial funding, the impact of this

    approach on students learning is unclear. As a small step in clarifying the impact of

    IBSE on students achievement, a quasi-experiment was conducted and reported in this

    dissertation. More specifically, the study examines achievement differences between

    inquiry science education and typical science education in five schools in Bogot,

    Colombia for overall achievement, achievement by types of knowledge (declarative,

    procedural, mental model) and proximity of the assessment measure to the curriculum

    (proximal and distal), and achievement as measured by performance assessments.

    Inquiry-based science teaching takes many forms. Moreover, even though studies

    compare inquiry teaching with other approaches, descriptions of this type of inquiry

    teaching are vague and vary widely as to classroom implementation. Through a review of

    the literature focused on empirical studies that compare inquiry teaching with other

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    approaches, I developed a framework used to define inquiry teaching and assess it using a

    variety of measurement methods. The framework focuses on three basic elements: 1)

    teachers, 2) students, and 3) curriculum materials, and how they tap into inquiry facets or

    domains (conceptual, epistemic, and social). This framework guided my comparative

    study of an IBSE program in Bogot, Colombia with a more traditional approach

    teaching the same unit, Human Body Systems.

    Three types of assessments measured fifth grade students science achievement:

    paper and pencil tests with (1) multiple-choice and (2) constructed-response questions

    and (3) performance assessments. The multiple-choice questions were constructed to test

    the different types of knowledge; test items were written proximal and distal to the

    curriculum taught. Of the two performance assessments, one was content rich with a

    direct link to the curriculum, while the other was content lean with an emphasis on

    science process skills.

    A total of 365 students from both IBSE and the Control group took the paper and

    pencil tests and a sub-group of 140 students from both groups took the performance

    assessments. Data were collected from 5 different schools in Bogot, three that teach

    science through an IBSE program and two that use a traditional approach. Data were

    analyzed using a nested design (classrooms within schools within treatment condition)

    and allowed for a comparison of the IBSE and the Control group science achievement.

    The findings were mixed as to the impact of IBSE teaching on achievement.

    While there was no statistically significant treatment effect as measured by the paper and

    pencil test including the multiple-choice or constructed response questions, there was a

    significant treatment effect in the content rich performance assessment as well as in the

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    content lean. Moreover, even though there was no significant treatment effect on the

    paper and pencil tests, IBSE students consistently outperformed the Control students on

    all the different measures of science achievement. This result can be explained by the

    nature of the nested design, large variation among schools (that served as a significant

    part of the experimental error term) and consequently low statistical power.

    The results, then, suggest that students who learn science through inquiry are able

    to go beyond concepts and apply them in conducting science investigations. Additional

    studies with more schools in order to better generalize than I could in this study as well as

    to increase statistical power should be done in Colombia and other countries that are

    reforming their curriculum through inquiry-based science teaching.

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    I am greatly appreciative of all the teachers and students who were part in this

    project, who were always willing to help and provide the time, logistics, and feedback

    that made this study possible. I am also thankful to the school administrators from

    Alianza Educativa, Colegio Las Mercedes, and Gimnasio Sabio Caldas for granting

    permission to conduct all the assessments at different times.

    My heartfelt gratitude also goes out to my advisor Richard Shavelson who is

    responsible for the successful completion of my dissertation. His untiring and constant

    effort, commitment, encouragement, guidance and unconditional support helped me

    greatly in the understanding and writing of the dissertation.

    A number of experts in different fields have offered useful advice and

    encouragement. I want to particularly thank Edward Haertel and Maria Araceli Ruiz-

    Primo for their valuable suggestions and comments at different stages of this process.

    It is a pleasure to thank those who made this thesis possible. ICFES and Pequeos

    Cientficos provided support in the development of the assessments. The team from

    Centro de Evaluacin of Universidad de los Andes worked non-stop with me in data

    collection. And last, my colleagues from Universidad de Los Andes provided valuable

    feedback and guidance during this dissertation.

    I offer special thanks to my office mates and friends at Stanford, Alice Fu and Jon

    Shemwell. The whole PhD experience was a great ride with you along. Thanks for the

    support, patience, and academic growth during these years. To Alice, thank you for the

    Wednesday meetings and good vibes during this process.

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    I am grateful to my family and friends, for their patience and constant words of

    encouragement. I thank my mother Vivian for her support and admiration. I owe my

    deepest gratitude to my son Emilio, who never complained and always understood the

    importance of this work. Finally, it would have been next to impossible to write this

    thesis without Camilos support, patience and love.

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    LIST OF TABLES Number Title Page Table 2.1. Characteristics of the Facets of Inquiry that Students Show when

    Learning Science through an Inquiry Approach (Adapted from Furtak & Siedel, 2008)


    Table 3.1. Characterization of the Studies that Compare Inquiry with Other Teaching Approaches


    Table 3.2. Conceptual Approach - Mapping Studys Inquiry Conception onto the Inquiry Facets


    Table 3.3. Research designs


    Table 3.4. Critique and Drawbacks


    Table 4.1. Examples Types of Assessments Used to Measure Science Achievement


    Table 4.2. Outcomes used in Studies that Compare Inquiry with other Approaches


    Table 4.3. Relationship between Types of Knowledge and Types of Assessments


    Table 5.1. Distribution of Students in