The Science Education Master's program continues to be an active and exciting place. Fall 2013 saw a cohort of eight new students join us. As we welcome this new group of informal, elementary, middle and secondary educators to our ranks we bid a fond farewell to the 11 graduate students who completed their studies this past year.
Several of the eleven grad students joined us at the May graduation ceremony. Prior to the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics graduation we held a Science Education hooding ceremony. At this event, family and friends watched as the graduates got hooded by their thesis advisors.
In addition to the classes and thesis projects, all the graduates presented at conferences or professional meetings. Many of this year's graduates worked on projects in the department collecting data, schlepping equipment, doing evaluation reports, or working with preservice teachers and kids. We are pleased to see so many of our graduate students sharing their work beyond the boundaries of our campus.
This past year Shanon Tabata, Sue Magdziarz, Stephanie Barone, Melanie Vartabedian and Tamara Galvan all presented at national meetings. Melanie Vartabedian, Chuck Kopzcak, Britain Bombard and Britt Legaspi were all published.
Sue Magdziarz's thesis, Examining Participation in a Dolphin Observation Citizen Science Program, was selected as the Outstanding Science Education Thesis. Sue and Tamara Galvan were selected as the Department's Outstanding Graduate Students.
Each of this year's graduates is listed along with the title and a brief description of their thesis.
"Examining Beneficial Outcomes Among Families at a Small Community Zoo Animal Show"
For this project, Stefanie worked with educators at the Santa Ana Zoo to look at their animal shows, where a presenter introduces animals and environmental messages to the zoo visitors. Little research has been done to understand the use of live animals in educational programs. This study examined families' perceived benefits of attending the animal show, as well as whether there were different outcomes depending on whether or not visitors could also touch the animals during the presentation.
"Literature Circles Book Club for Science and Language Arts"
For Britain's thesis she studied students from an urban middle school who participated in a Science Book Club using the literature circles format. These students voluntarily attended twice weekly lunch meetings, reading book choices that followed their 7th grade science classes. Groups of three to six participants were formed to read the same text. Each participant performed rotating jobs to improve group discussions during meetings. When a group completed a book, participants created a presentation to share what they learned with the other groups in the club and the researcher/teacher. Her research measured gains in science content knowledge, reading comprehension, and literary response and analysis using CST-ELA and district benchmarks scores as the measure for gains. An ANCOVA showed that while no gains were found in CST-ELA scores or science content knowledge, it did show gains in language arts in the areas of reading comprehension and literary response and analysis.
"Conceptions of Evolution Among Urban Middle School Students in Los Angeles" Although considerable work has been done examining high school and college students' understanding and acceptance of evolution, very few have looked at how middle school students make sense of this important theory. For his research project, Mike conducted a qualitative study to better understand common understandings, and misconceptions, related to evolutionary theory.
"The Effects of Different Gender Groupings on Middle School Students' Performance in Science Lab"
Decades ago Debbie read an article indicating that boys tended to hog science equipment during laboratory investigations leaving the girls to do the recording and clean-up. After that she started grouping her students into single-sex lab groups. Her thesis gave her the opportunity to see whether or not single-sex or mixed gender lab groups were more effective. She used a mixed methods approach in her study. Four class sections were studied over an entire year. Each class alternated semesters of being homogenously or heterogeneously mixed. Pairs of advanced and general classes were on alternating semesters to control for differences that might be attributed to the difficulty or nature of the labs. Debbie looked at student achievement on the lab reports, on-task vs. off-task behavior during the lab, manipulation of materials, and students' perception of which grouping strategy they believed helped them be more scholarly. Results indicate that honors classes did better in single-gender groups while general education classes did better with mixed gender groups.
"Making Connections: Listening to Visitors Conversation at Different Styles of Sea Jelly Exhibits"
After working as a research assistant in a project aimed at understanding how families engage with touch tank exhibits, Tamara decided to continue this line of research with the question: 'How do visitor experiences at the touch tank different from their experiences with the same animals in traditional 'glass tank' exhibits?' More specifically, Tamara decided to compare experiences at a sea jelly touch tank (yes, 'jellyfish') and the experiences at a normal, non-touch sea jelly exhibit. She decided to look for any differences in the kinds of connections that families made between their experiences at the exhibit, and their prior knowledge and prior experiences.
"Using Laboratory Conclusions to Investigate the Effectiveness of Verbal and Written Feedback"
This study investigated students' perceptions, preferences, and performance writing laboratory conclusions after receiving different types of feedback on their laboratory notebooks. One group received written feedback, the other verbal feedback (via audio recorded mp3 files). Performance differences were statistically insignificant, but students did differ in their perceptions and feedback preferences.
"Project GROW: A Scientist - Science Teacher Collaboration"
Wendy's thesis combined her love of environmental science, the nature of science, and inquiry. She partnered with Dr. Whitcraft from the biology department to create Project GROW – Guided Research On Wetlands. Her class is using Dr. Whitcraft's data to develop and answer questions about the Talbert wetlands in Huntington Beach. The class took a field trip to the wetlands with Wendy and Dr. Whitcraft, participated in a variety of in-class lessons to help them understand how to develop and answer scientific questions, graph and analyze data, and write scientific reports. Their culminating project was a written research paper and oral presentation. Wendy's next step is reflection and revision of the project for future iterations. She and Dr. Whitcraft are leading a short course at CSTA where they will share the scientist-science teacher collaboration project and the use of real data in the high school classroom.
"Examining Participation in a Dolphin Observation Citizen Science Program"
Citizen science projects are designed to engage the public in science by asking them to make observations or collect real data that is then shared with scientists. Sue looked at a citizen science project that she developed at Crystal Cove that encouraged visitors to observe dolphin behaviors off the coast. Were general visitors to the Crystal Cove Cottages, who may not have any interest in science, willing to participate in such a data-collecting program? Sue's research examined whether 'science identity' influenced people's decision to engage in Citizen Science.
"Using Interactive Demonstration Activities as a Strategy for Instruction of Online High School Chemistry Students"
As a chemistry teacher in an on-line high school, Jody was interested in how students performed laboratory investigations. She conducted a quasi-experimental mixed methods action research study with 103 high school chemistry students to examine the relationship between participation in online synchronous lessons, student understanding of chemistry concepts and success on laboratory activities. The study investigated the impact of different instructional strategies on student success on chemistry labs as defined by lab completion rates, lab performance and concept understanding. The data show students who participated in the synchronous lessons were more successful in labs than those who did not. Different instructional strategies yielded different levels of student engagement and information gathered about student learning during synchronous lessons.
"Examining the Impacts of a Roaming Docent"
As an educator at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Melanie noticed that many visitors would ask her questions about different animals and exhibits found in the main exhibit hall—even when she was in a gallery at the other end of the aquarium site! For her thesis project, she proposed the development of a 'roaming docent', a staff or volunteer who could be found in the main gallery and would answer any questions visitors had about what they were seeing. Not only did she document how visitors used these roaming docents, she examined how interaction with the roaming docent changed the visitor experience compared to visitors who didn't interact with the docent.