Utilizing Xenarthra (Tree Sloth, Anteater, Armadillo, Ground Sloth, Glyptodont, and Pampathere) Cranial Material to Evaluate Students' Understanding of This Thing Called Science
Shaw, Barbara J., Ruedas, Luis A., Journal of Geoscience Education
Two-thirds of U.S. citizens do not understand the scientific process. There is a clear misunderstanding about what science is-and is not-both in our society and in the classroom. Furthermore, students below basic proficiency are locked into an achievement gap. In response, the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001. Since then, there has been some progress in decreasing the achievement gap. However, according to The Nation's Report Card, 34% of fourth grade and 43% of eighth grade students sampled by the National Assessment for Educational Progress still fall below a basic level of proficiency in science. To evaluate what is misunderstood about the scientific process, third through eighth graders were guided to discern science from pseudoscience, and form testable questions by using 45 animal skulls and design experiments, and to then collect and analyze data to answer their questions based on the graphs they developed. They were given a pre-assessment at the beginning and a postassessment the end of a 12-h unit to determine changes in learning. These data were analyzed by a paired Student's t-test. The results show that students gained significantly in memorizing facts and making objective observations about xenarthrans. Students were not able, however, to transfer the skills gained to make objective observations about dinosaurs. In addition, they had difficulty differentiating between scientific questions (objectively testable) from nonscience questions.
© 2012 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/10-211.1]
Key words: inquiry, science education, testable question, pseudoscience
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