Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Jazlin Ebenezer






May 2015

Advisor: Dr. Jazlin Ebenezer

Major: Curriculum and Instruction

Degree: Doctor of Education

This is a three-article five chapter doctoral dissertation. The overall purpose of this three-pronged study is to engage a middle school science teacher and students in formal-informal science education within the context of a science standards-based curriculum and Urban Science Center. The goals of the study were: (1) to characterize the conversations of formal and informal science educators as they attempted to implement a standards-based curriculum augmented with science center exhibits; (2) to study the classroom discourse between the teacher and students that foster the development of common knowledge in science and student understanding of the concept of energy before observing science center exhibits on energy; (3) to investigate whether or not a standards-driven, project-based Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST) curriculum unit on forms and transformation of energy augmented with science center exhibits had a significant effect on urban African-American seventh grade students' achievement and learning. Overall, the study consisted of a mixed-method approach. Article one consists of a case study featuring semi-structured interviews and field notes. Article two consists of documenting and interpreting teacher-students' classroom

discourse. Article three consists of qualitative methods (classroom discussion, focus group

interviews, student video creation) and quantitative methods (multiple choice and open-ended questions). Oral discourses in all three studies were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. In article one, the community of educators' conversations were critically analyzed to discern the challenges educators encountered when they attempted to connect school curriculum to energy exhibits at the Urban Science Center. The five challenges that characterize the emergence of a third space were as follows: (a) science terminology for lesson focus, (b) "dumb-down" of science exhibits, (c) exploration distracts lesson structure, (d) meaning of model/modeling, and (e) Which comes first?--science content learning or science exhibit exploration. These challenges were considered and discussed as opportunities for personal growth. The third space allowed for participant reflection and transformation in formal-informal collaboration and communication. In article two, teacher-students' classroom discourse transcripts corresponding to the workbook lessons from the IQWST Physics Unit were analyzed. Four instructional events were selected for discourse analysis: focusing on the inquiry process; understanding about kinetic energy; formulating scientific explanations; and translating energy transformation. The discourse-excerpts representing the aforementioned instructional events revealed four teacher behaviors: teacher-posed questions, teacher-explanations, teacher responses, and teacher reference to past learning. Of these teacher behaviors, teacher-posed questions dominated and these consist of fill-in-the-blank, affirmation, second-order, descriptive, and explanatory. Article three represented the results of the IQWST Unit Achievement Test (IUAT) and students' understanding of the concepts of energy and energy transformation. The IUAT indicated that

students (N=37) in the experimental group taught with the science center exhibits augmented

IQWST curriculum unit achieved scores (p<0.001) about the same as students in the control group (N=31) taught only with the IQWST curriculum unit. However, the experimental (∆post-pre= 4.78) and control (∆ post-pre = 4.04) groups revealed significant gains (p<0.001) from pre-test scores to post-test scores. These findings confirm that underserved urban students' learning can be enhanced with an augmented standards-based curriculum unit. The students also can realize significant achievement gains when professionally developed and administration supported teachers use standards-driven science curriculum whether or not augmented with science exhibits.The three qualitative analyses of data in article three indicated that students had reasonable understandings of the forms and transformation of energy. They were also able to explain the working of science exhibits using their understandings of the energy concepts developed in class. The first study (article 1) implies that a third space allows for participant reflection and transformation in formal-informal collaboration and communication.

The second study (article 1) implies the following: (a) the teacher's struggle with dialogic discourse, a communicative approach that fosters common knowledge through a social process; and (b) the need for professional development that fosters dialogic discourse. The third study (article three) implies an integrated curriculum with both formal and informal components can be successfully enacted to achieve content mastery when teachers are given professional development on how to develop students' knowledge using science exhibits, time to develop concepts with students using exhibits, and support from administration to modify the time required to cover certain topics in the curriculum with more time spent on those topics such as energy that require creative teaching methods to assist students' science learning. Overall, the

study implies that the science center exhibits can provide a context to observe whether students are able to translate classroom constructed knowledge at the intersection of formal-informal instruction.

Key Words: Formal and informal science learning, third space emergence, dialogic discourse, sociocultural perspective, common knowledge, standards-based curriculum, science center exhibit, science achievement