CURRENT VOLUME ALL VOLUMES SEARCH TIEE
VOLUME 5 TEACHING ISSUES AND EXPERIMENTS IN ECOLOGY
RESEARCH

Semester-long Engagement in Science Inquiry Improves Students' Understanding of Experimental Design

AUTHOR

Alan B. Griffith 1

1 - Department of Biological Sciences, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 (agriffit@umw.edu)

ABSTRACT

For a teacher, pedagogical assessment can be an important tool to improve teaching methods and teaching materials. In 2004 and 2005, I assessed change in student understanding of experimental design in ecology during a semester-long inquiry-based laboratory. Students in my plant ecology laboratory learned about and designed experiments to address four hypotheses about invasive species. Students were given similar pre- and post- tests in both years. Student knowledge self assessment questions were added in 2005. Also in 2005, students analyzed an experimental design on an interim assessment. In 2004, 4 of the 8 questions showed a significant shift to more correct answers on the post-test. In 2005, 2 of the 10 questions showed a significant shift to more correct answers. In both 2004 and 2005, the percent correct answers per student on experimental design questions increased between the pre- and post-test. The majority of students correctly described 8 of 9 components of an experiment on the interim assessment. These results suggest that participation in this science inquiry laboratory improves student understanding of experimental design. Teaching assessment should be an integral part of teaching improvement because, like disciplinary research, it is an objective approach that can focus change on strengths and weaknesses in knowledge or concepts.


KEY WORDS

inquiry laboratory, pre-test, post-test, experimental design, teaching assessment, TIEE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank Charlene D'Avanzo, Bruce Grant, and Deborah Morris for organizing and guiding the workshops that led to this study. I am indebted to my fellow research practitioners for discussions during this project. This manuscript was substantially improved by the comments of Charlene D'Avanzo and two anonymous reviewers. TIEE and this study were supported by NSF grants (DUE 0127388, DUE 0443714, and DUE 9952347).

CITATION

Alan B. Griffith. June 2007, posting date. Semester-long Engagement in Science Inquiry Improves Students' Understanding of Experimental Design. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 5: Research #2 [online]. http://tiee.ecoed.net/vol/v5/research/griffith/abstract.html