Can We Be Scientists Too? Secondary Students' Perceptions of Scientific Research from a Project-Based Classroom

  • David M. Moss
  • Eleanor D. Abrams
  • Judith A. Kull


A research effort between science educators at the University of New Hampshire and Valley High School (pseudonym) was initiated to examine the conceptual development of high school students' understanding of scientific research over an entire school year. Students were involved in a series of classroom projects that were guided by curricula designed to foster “student scientist partnerships” (SSPs). Data for this research consist of audio-recorded, semi-structured student interviews which were transcribed verbatim. Seven students were interviewed six times over the school year. A content analysis of the transcripts was performed and the results were compared to a model of scientific research developed for the purpose of this study. This model comprises the major phases of the scientific enterprise, including the development of researchable questions, data collection, data analysis, drawing of conclusions, and communication of results. Results indicate that students' conceptual understanding of scientific research rarely evolved over the course of the year, remaining rudimentary. Students had uniformed notions of scientific questioning, viewed data collection as only following prescribed steps and ultimately repetitive, and had little experience with data analysis or the communication of scientific findings. Critical factors contributing to these student perceptions were insufficient exposure, a lack of a sense of partnership by students, and the design of the SSP.

Student researchers student conceptions conceptual change student scientist partnerships (SSPs) authentic science 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Project 2061: Science for all Americans, Oxford Press, New York.Google Scholar
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for Science Literacy, Oxford Press, New York, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Brooks, J. G., and Brooks, M. G. (1993). In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms, ASCD, Alexandria, VA.Google Scholar
  4. Clough, M. P., and Clark, R. (1994). Cookbooks and constructivism. The Science Teacher 61: 34-37.Google Scholar
  5. Driver, R., and Scanion, E. (1988). Conceptual change in science. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 5: 25-36.Google Scholar
  6. Dwyer, D. (1994). Apple classrooms of tomorrow: What we've learned. Educational Leadership: 4-10.Google Scholar
  7. Fleury, S. C., and Bentley, M. L. (1991). Education elementary science teachers: Alternative conceptions of the nature of science. Teaching Education 3: 57-67.Google Scholar
  8. Kull, J. A., and Moss, D. M. (1995). Students, teachers, and scientists: A collaborative model for a research partnership. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  9. Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking Science: Language, Learning, and Values. Ablex Publishing, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  10. Linder, C. J. (1993). A challenge to conceptual change. Science Education 77: 293-300.Google Scholar
  11. Moss, D. M., and Rock, B. N. (1991). Analysis of red edge spectral characteristics and total chlorophyll values for red spruce (Picea rubens) branch segments from Mount Mossilauke, New Hampshire, USA. Proceedings of IGARRS '91, 3: 1529-1532.Google Scholar
  12. National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  13. Patton, M. Q. (1987). How to use Qualitative Methods in Evaluation, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, California.Google Scholar
  14. Posner, G. J., Strike, K. A., Hewson, P. W., and Gertzog, W. A. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education 66: 211-227.Google Scholar
  15. Rock, B. N., and Lauten, G. N. (1996). K-12th Grade students as active contributors to research investigations. Journal of Science Education and Technology 5: 255-266.Google Scholar
  16. Solomon, J. (1991). Teaching about the nature of science in the British national curriculum. Science Education 75: 95-103.Google Scholar
  17. Tobias, S. (1990). They're not Dumb—They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier. Research Corporation, Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  18. Valli, L. (1992). Reflective Teacher Education: Cases and Critiques. SUNY Press, Albany, NY.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Moss
    • 1
  • Eleanor D. Abrams
    • 1
  • Judith A. Kull
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of New HampshireDurham

Personalised recommendations