Date of Award

8-2014

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Daniel F. Belknap

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Allan

Third Committee Member

Daniel Capps

Abstract

Authentic field geology research is a inquiry method that encourages students to interact more with their local environment, and by solving genuine puzzles, begin to increase their intuitive understanding of the nature and processes of science. The goal of the current study was to determine if conducting authentic field research and giving high school students the opportunity to present findings to adult audiences outside of the school setting 1) enhances students’ understanding of the nature of science, and 2) affects students views of themselves as researchers.

To accomplish this, ninth-grade students from a public school in northern New England engaged in a community-initiated glacial geology problem, completed a field research investigation, and presented their findings at several professional conferences.

Following the completion of this student-centered field research, I investigated its effects by using a mixed methods approach consisting of qualitative and quantitative data from two sources. These included selected questions from an open-response survey (VNOS-c), and interviews that were conducted with fifteen of the students of different ages and genders.

Findings show that conducting original field research seems to have a positive influence on these students’ understanding of the NOS as well as the processes of science. Many of the students reported feelings of accomplishment, acceptance of responsibility for the investigation, a sense of their authentic contribution to the body of scientific knowledge in the world, and becoming scientists. This type of authentic field investigation is significant because recent reforms in earth-science education stress the importance of students learning about the nature and processes of scientific knowledge along with science content.

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