Monday, 10 February 2003
Student learning in the visual geophysical exploration environment: Ideas for using inquiry-based curricula
The Visual Geophysical Exploration Environment (VGEE) is a set of computer tools and accompanying inquiry-based curriculum that allows students to investigate meteorological data and discover fundamental physical processes in the atmosphere. In the spring of 2002, the VGEE was used in one of two otherwise identical general education meteorology classes. We compared the two classes with concept based pre- and post-tests and Likert surveys of student attitudes. The pre- and post-tests revealed that the VGEE users showed a bigger improvement in their ability to explain meteorological concepts. Although the VGEE users showed the most improvement in concepts related to their investigations, they outscored the other class in other concepts as well. This suggests that inquiry-based curricula not only build deeper understanding of the specific concepts investigated, but that the skills used in inquiry, including logical analysis, help students understand related concepts as well. Student Likert surveys support this interpretation; students in the VGEE group reported that the class contributed more to their ability to use logic and analysis than the non-VGEE group.
Students in the VGEE group also completed 5 online surveys throughout the semester asking them to describe what they learned and what they still had questions about. We used these surveys to identify barriers to inquiry, including technological difficulties and concern over assessment practices. The online surveys also revealed a pervasive misconception that science is merely a collection of facts and that successful scientific investigation depends only on factual knowledge.
In the fall of 2002, we will use the VGEE in a classroom consisting entirely of future elementary school teachers. Inquiry is especially relevant to this population since they will play a formative role in future studentsí conceptions of science. Our presentation will include the results of an analysis of the VGEE's use in this environment as well.
Supplementary URL: http://www.dlese.org/vgee