Utilizing Xenarthra (Tree Sloth, Anteater, Armadillo, Ground Sloth, Glyptodont, and Pampathere) Cranial Material to Evaluate Students' Understanding of This Thing Called Science

By Shaw, Barbara J.; Ruedas, Luis A. | Journal of Geoscience Education, November 2012 | Go to article overview

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


ABSTRACT

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

INTRODUCTION

Voters and politicians both rate education among the top 10 issues in the current sociopolitical situation of this country (Polling Report, 2007). Youth education is mandatory in all states, requiring attendance from ages 4 or 5 to usually at least age 16 years (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). It is a national goal for all children to obtain a specific level of understanding - or standard - in English, math skills, social science, and science, as expressed in and passed by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) as well as in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The mission statement of the U.S. Department of Education encapsulates the importance of a solid education: The department's mission is "to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access." Scientists and educators are, however, failing at the basics in science: More than two-thirds of Americans do not understand science or the scientific process (NSF, 2004).

If education is the key to remain competitive in the global arena, then the United States is not meeting its stated objectives. The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessment was developed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) to measure students' achievements in mathematics and science. The Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education has a series of directives including participating in and maintaining the statistics of the TTMSS assessments (IEA, 2007). TIMSS provides participating countries with an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate students' progress in mathematics and science achievement on a regular 4 -year cycle, which began in 1995, with the most current results being from 2007 (IEA, 2007). Through participation in TIMSS, the United States has obtained reliable and timely data on the mathematics and science achievement of U.S. students compared with those of students in other countries (Martin et al., 2004). One trend observed in U.S. science education is that as students progress through U.S. schools, their science scores are relatively highest in fourth grade (compared with those of other countries) and relatively lowest in 12th grade (IEA, 1995, 2007). …

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Utilizing Xenarthra (Tree Sloth, Anteater, Armadillo, Ground Sloth, Glyptodont, and Pampathere) Cranial Material to Evaluate Students' Understanding of This Thing Called Science
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