Date of Award

8-2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Science Education

First Advisor

Dr. William Cobern

Second Advisor

Dr. Brandy Pleasants

Third Advisor

Dr. Heather Petcovic

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Richard VanEnk

Keywords

Student perceptions, student interest in science, science major and non-major, gender and science, undergraduate science labs, STEM

Abstract

The science laboratory learning environment has been a distinctive area in science education since the 19th century. The science laboratory environment has been examined extensively at the high school level using the Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI). There are, however, very few studies about the science laboratory environment done at the college level. An instrument that may be helpful for college instructors is one that assesses the degree to which students perceive the laboratory as intended by their science instructors. An examination of the literature indicated that there are no validated and reliable instruments for measuring student perceptions of what science instructors intend for the laboratory. The literature suggests that students may not be aware of their science instructors’ intentions for undergraduate science laboratory experiences. Science education researchers suggest that the misalignment between science instructors’ intentions for the laboratory and students’ perceptions of those intentions is a possible reason why previous studies have shown science laboratories to have limited impact on student outcomes. Because an appropriate instrument is not available, researchers have not been able to compare science majors and non-majors’ perceptions, or female and male perceptions of the laboratory with respect to science instructors’ intentions for the laboratory. Important factors, such as interest in science, have also not been examined due to the lack of an appropriate instrument. In light of this situation, I completed three independent but related studies. These studies led to three manuscripts for journal submission. In the first study, I developed the Student Perceptions of the College Instructional Laboratory Survey (SPCILS) using a foundational model and a bottom-up approach. The SPCILS is an easy-to-use, quantitative indicator of student perceptions of the laboratory with respect to science instructors’ intention. The SPCILS is a useful tool for evaluating introductory science laboratory course design for the purpose of improving laboratory instruction. In the second study, using a quantitative design, I used the SPCILS to compare science majors and non-majors, and female and male perceptions of the laboratory with respect to science instructors’ intentions for laboratories. This study provides baseline data for future qualitative studies about how major and gender might be impacting students’ laboratory experiences in ways beyond what was measured on this survey. In the final study, I used a quantitative design to examine whether student’s casual interest in science is associated with student’s perception of their science instructional labs as intended by their instructors. This study provides baseline data for future qualitative studies about how students casually interested in science perceive the science instructional lab as intended by their instructors. The cumulative results of the three studies build upon one another by understanding students’ casual interest in science and perceptions, which can help science educators modify undergraduate science laboratory activities to create a positive experience for students. This, in turn, may lead to retention in science majors and/or progression of these students into science-related careers.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Campus Only

Restricted to Campus until

8-31-2021

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