The Impact Of Authentic Science Inquiry Experiences Studying Variable Stars On High School Students’ Knowledge And Attitudes About Science And Astronomy And Beliefs Regarding The Nature Of Science
The purpose of this concurrent mixed methods study was to investigate the impact on high school students’ knowledge and attitudes regarding astronomy and beliefs about the nature of science after participating in an extended authentic, inquiry-oriented, research experience studying variable stars using a specifically designed curriculum guide “In the Hunt for Variable Stars.” The study gathered quantitative data using a pretest posttest strategy on a modified form of an existing questionnaire called Students Attitudes Toward Astronomy and four student-supplied response content surveys. Qualitative methods included analysis of researcher’s field notes, naturalistic observations, formal interviews, and students’ artifacts. The methods and results of this study provided important baseline information to measure cognitive and affective changes resulting from an authentic scientific research experience for high school students.
Ninety students participated in a targeted instructional sequence and their attitudes and knowledge were compared to 50 students in a comparable science course who were not provided an authentic research experience. The results obtained in this study strongly suggest that participation in research is successful at significantly increasing content knowledge. All four content surveys showed statistically significant increases for students in the intervention group as compared to the students in the non- intervention group. Qualitative results demonstrated that both groups of students initially held naïve ideas about science and astronomy. After participation in the intervention, the most dramatic changes were observed in students’ understanding of astronomy content. No substantial change was seen in students’ attitudes toward Astronomy and science but there is evidence of some limited impacts on beliefs regarding the nature of science.
In combination, the data resulting from this mixed-method study lend considerable weight to claim in contemporary science education reform that students will learn and more scientifically accurate knowledge of astronomy after participating in authentic inquiry experiences.