The impact of instructor intention for student learning and implementation of undergraduate science education reform on student perception of the learning environment

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University of Alabama Libraries

The rapid advances in technology and scientific knowledge in modern society increases the need for a workforce with an understanding of technology and critical thinking skills College graduates are entering the working world without the critical thinking skills and ability to apply the scientific knowledge gained during their undergraduate experience (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006). To prepare college graduate for the careers that they will have in the future, the current way science is taught has to be reformed. When examining the impact of reformed science teaching at the undergraduate level, the question of how students perceive their learning environment arises. To address this problem, this study examined the effects that of varying levels of reformed science teaching used classroom had on students' perceptions of the learning environment. The population of this study included 103 institutions that participated in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's NASA Opportunities for Visionary Academics (NOVA) Program. The NOVA program courses were developed by faculty teams as a part of professional development efforts for university faculty and administrators at 103 universities to work in collaborative teams to create and sustain reform in entry-level undergraduate science and mathematics courses. To determine the impact of reformed teaching on students, the National Study of Education in Undergraduate Science used surveys, interviews, and classroom observations compare the NOVA reformed courses with similar courses that had not been reformed under the NOVA program. The study sample in this dissertation includes data from 9 of those institutions and 14 faculty members. The level of reform was measured using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol, and students' perception of the learning environment was determined using the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey. Quantitative results were corroborated with qualitative data from interviews of both the instructors and the students. The level of reform found in the courses was found to vary along a continuum from reformed to traditional instructor orientation and this context significantly affected student perceptions of the learning environment. Results identified significant relationships between courses the level of reform implemented in the course and student perception of the learning environment. The ways in which scientific ideas were communicated impacted students' perceptions of their ability to learn science. In the courses where students were given the opportunity to develop and communicate their ideas about scientific knowledge to other students and the instructor, the students perceived the learning environment more favorably. The students in these courses were more confident in their ability to learn and understand science. They also felt more confident in their ability to use their scientific knowledge in their futures. Students in courses with little reform implanted in the classroom viewed the learning environment less favorably. They tended to feel the course content was irrelevant to their lives, and did not think they could and/or would use the course knowledge in their future care

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Curriculum development, Educational evaluation, Higher education