Impact of Backwards Faded Scaffolding Approach to Inquiry-Based Astronomy Laboratory Experiences on Undergraduate Non-Science Majors’ Views of Scientific Inquiry
Impact of Backwards Faded Scaffolding Approach to Inquiry-Based Astronomy Laboratory Experiences on Undergraduate Non-Science Majors' Views of Scientific Inquiry
This study explored the impact of a novel inquiry-based astronomy laboratory curriculum designed using the Backwards Faded Scaffolding inquiry teaching framework on non-science majoring undergraduate students' views of the nature of scientific inquiry (NOSI). The study focused on two aspects of NOSI: The Distinction between Data and Evidence (DvE), and The Multiple Methods of Science (MMS). Participants were 220 predominately non-science majoring undergraduate students at a small, doctoral granting, research-extensive university in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. The student participants were enrolled in an introductory astronomy survey course with an associated laboratory section and were selected in two samples over consecutive fall and spring semesters. The participants also included four of the graduate student instructors who taught the laboratory courses using the intervention curriculum. In the first stage, student participant views of NOSI were measured using the VOSI-4 research instrument before and after the intervention curriculum was administered. The responses were quantified, and the distributions of pre and posttest scores of both samples were separately analyzed to determine if there was a significant improvement in understanding of either of the two aspects of NOSI. The results from both samples were compared to evaluate the consistency of the results. In the second stage, the quantitative results were used to strategically design a qualitative investigation, in which the four lab instructors were interviewed about their observations of how the student participants interacted with the intervention curriculum as compared to traditional lab activities, as well as their suggestions as to how the curriculum may or may not have contributed to the results of the first stage. These interviews were summarized and analyzed for common themes as to how the intervention curriculum influenced the students' understandings of the two aspect of NOSI. According to the results of a Wilcoxon Signed Rank test, there was a significant shift in the distributions of both samples toward a more informed understanding of DvE after the intervention curriculum was administered, while there was no significant change in either direction for understanding of MMS. The results of the instructor interview analysis suggested that the intervention curriculum provided multiple opportunities for students to evaluate and determine the relevance of data in the context of producing evidence-based conclusions directly related to specific research questions, thereby supporting the development of more informed views of DvE. These results also suggested that students might not have realized that they were exclusively engaged in non-experimental type inquiries, as various research methods were not explicitly addressed. The intervention curriculum used a consistently phased stepwise format, which may also have led the students to accommodate their astronomy inquiry experiences within persistent misconceptions of "The Scientific Method" as the only valid means of constructing scientific knowledge, thereby leading to no change in understanding of MMS. The results of the study suggest that a scaffolded, inquiry-based, introductory astronomy laboratory curriculum purposefully designed and scaffolded to enhance students' understandings could be effective in enhancing undergraduate non-science majoring students' views of certain aspects of NOSI. Through scaffolding inquiry experiences that deliver multiple opportunities to engage in authentic scientific inquiries, the novel curriculum provides a valuable resource for the astronomy education community to engage students in learning experiences that reflect the contemporary views of constructivist inquiry-based learning, which focuses on the interpretation of data to create evidence in light of specific questions, as well as opportunities to engage in authentic scientific discourse. As such it can enable astronomy educators in the undergraduate teaching community to support student learning beyond astronomy content knowledge toward a more informed understanding of the process of scientific knowledge construction to the end of supporting proficiency in science and science literacy.
Lyons, D. J. (2011). Impact of backwards faded scaffolding approach to inquiry-based astronomy laboratory experiences on undergraduate non-science majors’ views of scientific inquiry. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Wyoming
Type of Publication
Lyons, Daniel J.
University of Wyoming
University of Wyoming
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America