We are currently recruiting middle school science teachers who would like to participate in pilot testing the VELscience modules in the 2010 - 2011 academic year. If you are interested in participating in this pilot test, please contact the project director, Susan Pedersen.
Our pilot studies focus on testing the two main hypetheses of our project. They are
- Virtual environments can engage students in student-directed inquiry by a) providing a context for an ill-structured task that requires students to design investigations, collect and analyze data,
interpret those data, and apply them to address the ill-structured task, b) providing access to virtual scientific instruments and knowledge bases that students need to design and complete their investigations, and c) supporting students’ development of artifacts through scaffolds and cognitive tools.
- Engaging students in multiple, sustained student-directed inquiry activities will enhance students’ a) ability to conduct scientific investigations, b) content knowledge, and c) attitude toward science. This will be true for both genders and all racial and ethnic groups.
The first three modules in the VELscience series have gone through one round of pilot testing. The pilot tests were primarily formative in nature, and revisions to the modules based on the results are currently underway. However, the results do provide some initial support for the hypotheses. Findings to date include:
- Observations and interviews suggest that students do design investigations, gather and analyze data, and use that data to develop a product that responds to the task in the module, all features of student-directed inquiry.
- Overall, students scored better on the post-tests than the pre-tests for each of the three modules. The overall difference between pre- and post-test was statistically significant in Modules 1 and 3.
- Post-test scores were significantly higher than pre-test scores for all ethnic subgroups (i.e., White, Hispanic, African-American), for both genders, for every teacher, and for both the lower income and the higher income schools.
- Qualitative data suggest that students have a positive attitude toward the modules. For example, one seventh grade student said, “It’s fun because you get to move around and do what real scientists do.”
- For gender, the highest average test scores across all three modules came from female students.