Authentic science in education: Studies in course-based research at the United States Military Academy

Anthony M Chase, Purdue University


This dissertation consists of two studies at the United States Military Academy. Both studies involve the use of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs). These experiences give students the ability to engage in undergraduate research at an early point in their academic career by replacing traditional laboratory activities with semester-long research projects. Both studies show an implementation of this type of instruction from the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE). Study 1 shows the specific method of implementation at the military academy and explores learning-based outcomes. Primarily the outcome of critical thinking is demonstrated. Critical thinking is a construct that many curriculum developers and instructors want to foster within their students but often lack clear definitions or evaluation plans. This study gives a definition of critical thinking and an outcome of a critical thinking test. Significant gains in critical thinking are observed by students participating in the CURE as well as significant gains in three affective factors (Interest in Science/Chemistry, Authenticity, Perceived Learning). The gains in critical thinking are then further statistically linked to students? perceptions of how authentically they saw the research in the course. If they felt that the course was demonstrating more authentic science practices, they gained significantly more in their critical thinking scores. The second study in this dissertation adds an additional transfer focus to the instructional materials that the CURE was meant to support. The treatment group in this study received instruction that was framed expansively. The expansively framed instruction showed students ways that the material was applicable outside of the course. The assessments and instructional materials of this study were transfer assessments with contrasting cases. Instances of negative or ?overzealous transfer? were also reported. Findings suggest that students in the transfer-focused treatment condition display a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the Gas Chromatograph more so than the control group which focused on output of the instrument only. Analyses of instances of negative transfer or overzealous transfer in this study show a reduction in instances for the treatment groups. This can be theoretically attributed to the use of Inventing with Contrasting Cases for individuals in the treatment group as this is postulated to reduce instances of negative transfer. Future work in this area is suggested to incorporate studies with control-treatment comparisons across groups of larger populations to tease out significant differences of means on transfer assessments. Further, the transfer assessments used need to be comparable in level of difficulty as the ones in this study appeared to differ.




David A. Sears, Purdue University, Ming M. Chiu, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Instructional design|Educational psychology|Science education|Military studies

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