Blind Salamanders beneath and Resident Scientists within our science classrooms: Secondary Student Attitudes in a NSF GK-12 Program

Kristina K. Dame, Julie F. Westerlund


The purpose of this three-year study was to examine secondary school students’ attitudes about science in classrooms with resident scientists who had been trained in inquiry science teaching. The study was based upon a National Science Foundation (NSF) program called Project Flowing Waters, a five-year NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program. The program funded 26 doctoral students, known as NSF GK-12 Fellows, who served as bi-weekly resident scientists in science classrooms in local schools. We analyzed 15 teacher-resident scientist partnerships involving 609 secondary students using a mixed-methods design. We surveyed student attitudes in three categories: (a) science and scientists, (b) student abilities in science, and (c) importance and usefulness of science. We found significant differences in positively changing student attitudes, in the category science and scientists, in 3 of the 15 partnerships although with small Cohen’s d effect sizes. We found a significant difference in a positive direction in one partnership in the category attitudes about own science ability, with a medium Cohen’s d effect size. We also surveyed, using open-ended questions, students’ perspectives about their resident scientists and what they had learned. Students indicated that resident scientists had affected their learning with 72% of the responses being positive. The five most common responses concerning resident scientists were: “helps me understand science better”, “made it more interesting”, “easier to understand”, “I have learned new things”, “helpful and helps with the labs.” We also found common themes in student comments concerning what they had learned from their resident scientists including endangered species such as blind salamanders.



Student attitudes; resident scientists; NSF GK-12

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