The Case Method of Instruction, Conceptual Change, and Student Attitude

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Title: The Case Method of Instruction, Conceptual Change, and Student Attitude
Author: Gallucci, Kathleen K.
Advisors: Glenda S. Carter, Committee Chair
JoAnn Burkholder, Committee Member
M. Gail Jones, Committee Member
Dianne Raubenheimer, Committee Member
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of the case method of instruction (CMI) on conceptual change in students' understanding of genes, biodiversity, and evolution topics, and to investigate the effect of learning with CMI on student attitude regarding the discipline of science, and learning about science. The study also investigated students' perceptions of their learning gains based on CMI. This was a mixed-methods action research study that used a quasi-experimental design. The study participants were enrolled in three sections (n1 = 20, n2 = 16, n3 = 30) of the same introductory biology course during the spring of 2006 at a small, private university in the southeastern United States. At the beginning of the semester, students completed a pretest composed of six open-ended questions (two on each topic) to uncover their alternative conceptions — or lack of them, and after instruction using CMI, students answered the same questions as a post-test on two hourly class exams. The answers were scored with original rubrics and the differences between the scores were analyzed using the Student's paired t-Test. In addition, twelve student volunteers were interviewed twice, once after each exam, by an independent interviewer, to elicit their understanding about the method of CMI, their understanding of the topics from the recent exam, and their attitudes about science and learning about science. The interviews were audio taped and transcribed, and analyzed after course grades were submitted for themes and comments about conceptual understanding and learning about science. Finally, students completed two anonymous instruments: the Science Attitude Inventory (SAI II) and the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG). The SAI II was completed on the first and the last day of the semester to assess change in student attitude about science and the pretest and posttest scores were analyzed for significant differences. Students completed the SALG online immediately before the course final exam to provide their opinion on learning science with CMI and their perception of learning gains made by using CMI. The percent of responses for their perceptions in each of 5 categories was studied for each question and written comments were analyzed. According to the interview data, CMI presented a new learning paradigm for students and many agreed that the method made learning more interesting, motivating, and relevant, and as a consequence they learned more and expect to retain it longer. Based on the pretest answers, many students had alternative conceptions, but some responses indicated a lack of preconceptions altogether. All classes showed an increase in conceptual learning of all three topics, based on the analysis of the posttest rubric scores, with evolution concepts showing the largest increase. CMI appears to have a no effect on student attitude toward science, according to the SAI II data, it but does affect student attitude about learning science, based on the interview data. CMI appears to be a teaching strategy that can promote student engagement in learning science and may help students to make progress toward conceptual change.
Date: 2007-12-07
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Science Education

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