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  • UNDERSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE

    EDUCATION—THE COGNITION, CURRICULUM, AND CONCEPTUAL ASSESSMENT

    by

    HSIANGHAN SHANNON SUNG

    (Under the Direction of Ji Shen)

    ABSTRACT

    The dissertation includes three studies that all contribute to the understanding of

    interdisciplinary science education. The first chapter offers an overview of the context of these

    studies. Chapters 2-4 present the three studies approaching interdisciplinary science education

    from a cognitive, instructional, and assessment perspectives, respectively. In Chapter 2, a

    clarification and revision process of a cognitive framework for interdisciplinary understanding

    (IU) is presented. The framework examines four critical aspects of IU: integration, translation,

    transfer, and transformation. In Chapter 3, a textbook analysis of a crosscutting concept, osmotic

    pressure, shows the inconsistency of definitions and interpretations across science disciplines.

    The findings reveal challenges and suggest possible remedies in coordinating science curricula to

    achieve interdisciplinary integration and translation. In Chapter 4, the cognitive framework

    proposed in Chapter 2 is applied to construct interdisciplinary science assessment items on the

    topic of energy. The last chapter summarizes the findings of the three studies and elaborates on

    the implications for the overall work of interdisciplinary science education.

  • INDEX WORDS: Interdisciplinary, science education, instructional collaboration, text

    analysis, discourse analysis, assessment, item response theory (IRT)

  • UNDERSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE

    EDUCATION—THE COGNITION, CURRICULUM, AND CONCEPTUAL ASSESSMENT

    by

    HSIANGHAN SHANNON SUNG

    B.S., National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, 2006

    M.A., Wesleyan College, 2010

    A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of The University of Georgia in Partial

    Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

    DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

    ATHENS, GEORGIA

    2013

  • © 2013

    Hsianghan Shannon Sung

    All Rights Reserved

  • UNDERSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE

    EDUCATION—THE COGNITION, CURRICULUM, AND CONCEPTUAL ASSESSMENT

    by

    HSIANGHAN SHANNON SUNG

    Major Professor: Ji Shen

    Committee: Seock-Ho Kim

    J. Steve Oliver

    Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall

    Electronic Version Approved:

    Maureen Grasso

    Dean of the Graduate School

    The University of Georgia

    August 2013

  • iv

    DEDICATION

    To Him who called me to achieve something I would not have accomplished with my

    own strength and knowledge; and to the dearest husband He granted me, Edward Sung.

  • v

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    I would like to thank my major advisor, mentor, and also caring friend, Dr. Ji Shen, who

    spent countless hours advising and holding discussions with me even before I officially enrolled

    in the doctoral program. His passion and incredible sensitivity toward research has immensely

    influenced my approach to conducting research. When I encountered bottlenecks and was

    discouraged, he gave me constructive suggestions, and when I was undecided about my choice

    from among many potential research topics, I was able to rely on his expertise. Without this

    superb advisor, who on the one hand trusted me and gave me ample space to explore my research

    interest and on the other hand challenged me to be more selective in my focus, I would have

    been lost in my vast research interest. Thank you for your encouragement and constructive

    criticisms that helped me grow into a more mature scholar over the past few years.

    I also extend my gratitude to an excellent teacher and mentor, Dr. Shawn Glynn. You

    never hesitated to praise me, offer great guidance, and urge me to hang in there. Your love of

    cognitive sciences, psychometrics, and teaching is contagious. You provided a perfect role model

    from the onset of my doctoral program. Thank you for being an inspiring counselor and a

    genuine and professional scholar.

    I could not have accomplished my studies without the suggestions from my committee

    members, Dr. Seock-Ho Kim, Dr. J. Steve Oliver, and Dr. Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall. Their

    expertise refined my approaches to my research questions. I am grateful to my collaborators and

    professors, Dr. Armstrong, Dr. Dolan, Jackson, Dr. Pienta, Dr. Vicente, Dr. Wiegert, and Dr.

    York, who spent hours offering their science content expertise to validate the prototype

    interdisciplinary assessment instrument.

  • vi

    To my late advisor, Dr. Pingchun Hou (1961~2012), an ecologist who dedicated her

    whole life to education and the Truth: you meant a lot in my life. You are a wonderful scholar

    with integrity who taught me not only the knowledge from textbooks and ecological research in

    the field, but also the wisdom from your own life. Thank you for being a positive influence on

    my pursuit of a professional place in science education. I also want to thank Dr. Fuyun Yu,

    whom I have known for more than 10 years since the first class in the teacher preparation

    program in Taiwan. Your enthusiasm and curiosity about educational research has never changed

    nor ceased since meeting you. You sacrifice your rest and commit to engaging students in

    designing intriguing instructions and promoting innovative learning. It is my privilege to learn

    from you, work with you, and discover interesting learning patterns together.

    I also want to thank my colleagues who put up with my “absurdity.” My office buddy and

    sincere “half-brother” Bahadir Namdar, thank you for admiring Dr. Shen with me; we will be a

    band of brothers with inspiring ideas. To Sara, Julianne, Shan D., Melissa, Dongmei, Wendell,

    Heather, Len, Rutchell, and others with whom I have had stimulating interactions, you are

    awesome friends and intellectual partners who showed me what passionate educators are like.

    Ms. Etta, you are always a superwoman who does not mind going the extra mile when I asked

    for help. I miss you a lot even though I know you are enjoying your retirement. Ms. Carla, you

    are the coolest and most helpful librarian I have ever met. I love our bookworm chitchats in the

    hall way. In addition, I appreciate the writing tutors who sharpened my writing skills.

    For my friends in the Athens and Macon fellowships, you have been the best brothers and

    sisters while I have been thousands of miles away from my biological family. You take care of

    me and make sure that I am mentally and physically sound. For the past five years, Friday nights

    in Georgia have been filled with laughter and a profound sense of openness. Your love has been

  • vii

    so sweet that I find myself calling wherever you are “home”. I am so thankful to have such a

    supportive family that helps to relieve the homesickness I have sometimes felt.

    To my dearest parents, siblings, and friends in Taiwan: I am sorry that I could not be

    physically there for the many important events in your lives, but you are always so considerate

    and kind enough to keep me posted. Last but never least, I appreciate the patience of my husband

    and my love, Edward, who has endured these lonely years without me by his side. Thank you for

    your sacrificial love, your understanding, your support for my study, and for lifting me up by

    saying “You seem to enjoy what you are doing.” Your spiritual leadership keeps my mind from

    being weary. I am overjoyed to share this accomplishment with you.

  • viii

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Page

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .............................................................................................................v

    LIST OF TABLES ......................................................................................................................... xi

    LIST OF FIGURES ...................................................................................................................... xii

    1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................1

    Context of the Problem ............................................................................................2

    Purpose of the Studies ..............................................................................................5

    Background Information ..........................................................................................7

    Outline of Each Manuscript .....................................................................................8

    References ..............................................................................................................12

    2 Toward a Cognitive Framework of Interdisciplinary Understanding (IU) ..................16

    Abstract ....................................................

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