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International researchers are also producing evidence of inadequacies in American science education. Students in the United States do not exhibit the high levels of educational achievement in the sciences that their peers in a number of other nations do on the middle and high school level (French, 2003). The lack of coherent vision of how to educate today’s children produces unfocused curricula and textbooks that influence teachers to implement unfocused learning goals (Schmidt, McKnight, & Raizen, 1996). According to the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, “…science standards in the USA lack the coherence, focus, and level of demand that are prevalent across the high performing countries of the world” (Valverde & Schmidt, 2000, p.652). The same study indicated that by the eighth grade, U.S. students scored only slightly above the national average in science among the 41 countries involved. Although it is virtually impossible to isolate the exact reasons for the inadequate performance by these middle school students, the message that this assessment carries is that our current science education in the United States is failing to provide our students with the comprehensive science education that they need to thrive in a highly competitive and technical world.

One proposed way to address these issues is to prepare students to become excellent active learners (Wilke & Straits, 2005), who are able to transfer learning in school to the various unpredictable circumstances they face in their outside lives. Student background experiences, from sources other than their educational realms, shape what a student truly believes about the world around them (Unal & Akpinar, 2006). Much of the traditional education that is currently implemented in United States’ science classrooms have failed to produce these adaptive outcomes, which has resulted in a decline in student interest and motivation in science. Studies of teaching and learning in science classrooms reported that most teachers are still using traditional, didactic methods (Harms & Yager, 1980, Seymour, 2002; Unal & Akpinar, 2006). In many cases, the teacher lectures, providing minimal regard for the students’ previous conceptions. Students are not engaged in the lessons and are passive learners of the science concepts. Students become less involved in the learning process and interest and motivation is lost. Consequently, American students continue underperforming in science (Martin et al, 2004; Parker & Gerber, 2000; Roth et al, 2006; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999).

Science educators need to provide inquiry-based instruction for students to become engaged in an active learning process that will increase motivation and gain a firm grasp of scientific principles (Carlson, 2003).

Efforts must be made in order to change the focus from a traditional, teacher-centered classroom to an inquirybased, student-centered classroom. These efforts promote an increase in student interest, motivation and achievement in the science classroom. A continuous growing body of evidence correlates inquiry-based science instruction with an increase in achievement (Escalada & Zollman, 1997;

Freedman, 1997, 2001; Johnson, Kahle, & Fargo, 2006;

Kahle, Meece, & Scantlebury, 2000; Mattern & Schau, 2002;

McReary, Golde, & Koeske, 2006; Morrell & Lederman, 1998;

Okebukola, 1987; Oliver-Hoyo & Allen 2005; Parker & Gerber, 2000; Tamir & Glassman, 1971).

Inquiry-based instruction has been in the field of science education for several decades. Tamir and Glassman (1971) performed a controlled study, in which the achievement of biology students who studied an inquirybased curriculum was compared with that of students who studied a traditional one. In this study both quantitative and qualitative comparisons were made between twelfth grade students working towards the inquiry-oriented BAGRUT examination, n=142, and a comparison sample, n=60 who studied for the traditional BAGRUT examination. The quantitative measure was the practical BAGRUT test, whereas the qualitative measure was through direct observation of the students and informal conversation with them while they were working on the investigation. Using a 100-point scale, the mean scores of the inquiry-oriented and traditional samples were 72.9 (S.D.=11.2) and 55.2 (S.D.=16.3), respectively. The overall difference was statistically significant at 1.08 standard deviations. It was concluded that the students who had studied the inquiry-based curriculum achieved higher in solving openended problems using experimental procedures in the laboratory.

Shymansky, Kyle, and Alport (1983) summarized the results of a quantitative synthesis of the retrievable effects of primary research dealing with new science curricula on student performance. The new science curricula emphasized inquiry-based instruction, which included the nature, structure, and processes of science, integrated laboratory activities as an integral part of the class routine, and emphasized higher cognitive skills and appreciation of science. Utilizing meta-analysis (Glass, 1976), the study synthesized the results of 105 experimental studies involving more than 45,000 students.

There were a total of 27 different inquiry-based science curricula involving one or more measures of student performance. Data were collected for 18 a priori selected student performance measures. Across all new science curricula, students exposed to inquiry-based science curricula performed better than students in traditional courses in achievement, analytic skills, process skills, and related skills, as well as developing a more positive attitude toward science. On a composite basis, the average student in the inquiry-based science curricula exceeded the performance of 63% of the students in traditional science courses. The results of this meta-analysis revealed positive patterns of student performance in inquiry-based science curricula.

Tamir, Stavy, and Ratner (1998) indicated that inquiry-based instruction is feasible and desirable. The performance of three groups of 12th grade students; aged 16was compared. Group A (n=22) specializing in physics and/or chemistry studied a conventional course that did not emphasize inquiry-based instruction throughout the curriculum. Group B (n=52) specializing in biology studied a course that emphasized inquiry-based instruction. Group C (n=50) studied the same biology course, but in addition, studied basic concepts of scientific inquiry. The early stages of the explicit instruction given to Group C included theoretical as well as concrete inquiry tasks, in familiar areas of subject matter. These tasks served to impart a set of formal concepts related to scientific inquiry, allowing students to gain the ability to cope with laboratory inquiry in a variety of areas. Two tasks served as dependent variables. Group A had the lowest scores, about one standard deviation behind Group B. Group B, in turn, fell 1 standard deviation behind Group C. It was concluded that explicit instruction of inquiry is advantageous.

Chang and Mao (1999) examined the comparative efficiency of inquiry-base group instruction and traditional teaching methods on junior high school students’ achievement and attitudes toward earth science.

Their study was a nonequivalent control group quasiexperimental design involving 16 intact classes. The treatment group consisted of 319 students and received inquiry-based group instruction. The control group consisted of 293 students and received traditional instruction. Data collection instruments included the Earth Science Achievement Test and the Attitudes Toward Earth Science Inventory (Mao & Chang, 1997). A multivariate analysis of covariance suggested that the students in the experimental group had significantly higher achievement scores than did students in the control group.

Furthermore, there were statistically significant differences in favor of the inquiry-based group instruction on student attitudes toward the subject matter.

Kahle, Meece, and Scantlebury (2000) examined the influence of various inquiry-based teaching methods on the achievement of urban African-American 7th and 8th grade middle school science students. Science classes of eight teachers who had participated in the professional development of Ohio's statewide systemic initiative (SSI) were matched with classes of 10 teachers who had not participated. Data were gathered using group-administered questionnaires and achievement tests that were specifically designed for Ohio's SSI. Analyses indicated that teachers who frequently used inquiry-based teaching methods positively influenced the students' science achievement and attitudes, especially for boys.

Johnson, Kahle, and Fargo (2006) demonstrated that using inquiry-based methods positively affected student achievement. A longitudinal cohort design involved collecting scores on the Discovery Inquiry Test (DIT) in Science during the 3 years of the study. Effective inquiry-based teaching was identified through a series of classroom observations using the Local Systemic Change Classroom Observation Protocol (Horizon Research, 1999).

This study found that effective inquiry-based teaching increases student achievement and closes achievement gaps for all students.

For many years, the science education community has advocated the use of inquiry-based instruction in science classrooms. Many of the current science-education reform efforts are still advocating for the transition from traditional instruction to inquiry-based instruction using new and innovative curricula. In addition, continuous growing body of evidence correlates inquiry-based science instruction with an increase in achievement. Research supports the idea that continuous efforts must be made in order to provide student-centered, inquiry-based science classrooms for all students. These constant efforts promote an increase in student interest, motivation and achievement in the science classroom.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2007

–  –  –

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007 is the fourth since 1995, in a continuing cycle of internationally comparative assessments dedicated to improving teaching and learning in mathematics and science for students around the world. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) developed and implemented TIMSS at the international level. TIMSS is administered every four years at the fourth and eighth grades, providing data about trends in mathematics and science achievement over time. TIMSS was designed to investigate student learning of mathematics and science and the way in which educational systems, schools, teachers, and students influence the learning opportunities and experiences of individual students. The goal is to provide comparative information about educational achievement across countries to improve teaching and learning in mathematics and science.

The TIMSS 2007 is the most recent in an ambitious series of international assessments. The TIMSS involved approximately 425,000 students from 58 countries around the world. TIMSS 2007 is designed to align broadly with mathematics and science curricula in the participating countries. The results, therefore, suggest the degree to which students have learned mathematics and science concepts and skills likely to have been taught in school.

TIMSS also collects background information on students, teachers, and schools to allow cross-national comparison of educational contexts that may be related to student achievement.

In the United States, TIMSS 2007 was administered between April and June 2007. The United States sample included both public and private schools, randomly selected and weighted to be representative of the nation. In total, 257 schools and 10,350 students participated at grade four, and 239 schools and 9723 students participated at grade eight. The overall weighted school response rate in the United States was 70% at grade four before the use of substitute schools and 89% with the inclusion of substitute schools. At grade 8, the overall weighted school response rate before the use of substitute schools was 68% and 83% with the inclusion of substitute schools. Detailed information on sampling, administration, response rates, and other technical issues are included in the TIMSS 2007 Technical Report (Olson, Martin, and Mullis, 2008).

The TIMSS science assessment was designed along two dimensions: the science topics or content that students are expected to learn and the cognitive skills students are expected to have developed. The content domains covered at grade four are life science, physical science, and earth science. At grade 8, the content domains are biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. The cognitive domains in each grade are knowing, applying, and reasoning (Appendix A). Example items from the TIMSS science assessment are included in appendix B of Gonzales, Williams, Jocelyn, Roey, Kastberg, & Brenwald (2008).

The proportion of items devoted to a domain, and therefore the contribution of the domain to the overall science scale score, differs somewhat across grades. For example, at grade 4 in 2007, 37% of the TIMSS 2007 science assessment focused on the physical science domain, while at grade 8, 46% of the assessment focused on the analogous chemistry and physics domains. The proportion of items devoted to each cognitive domain is similar across grades.

In addition, within a content or cognitive domain, the makeup of items, in terms of difficulty and form of knowledge and skills addressed, differs across grade levels to reflect the nature, difficulty, and emphasis of subject matter encountered in school. The TIMSS 2007 Assessment Frameworks (Mullis, Martin, Rudock, O’Sullivan, Arora, & Erberber, 2005) provides a more detailed description of the content and cognitive domains assessed in TIMSS 2007. The development and validation of the science cognitive domains is detailed in IEA’s TIMSS 2003 International Report on Achievement in the Science Cognitive Domains: Findings From a Developmental Project (Mullis, Martin, & Foy, 2005).

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