A study of the impact of an informal science education program on middle school students' science knowledge, science attitude, STEM high school and college course selections, and career decisions

by Ricks, Marsha Muckelroy, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, 2006, 180 pages; 3245344


The Summer Science Camp (SSC) 1 is an informal summer science education program for 7th and 8th grade students residing in Galveston County, Texas. The SSC I program curriculum is designed to: enrich students' science knowledge by engaging them to hands-on science laboratory-based problem-solving instruction, scientific experiments, field-trips and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related experiences. The participants were exposed to and utilized current science research technology and equipment. The SSC I program expected to increase participants' science knowledge, and affect a positive influence on science their attitudes and outlook related to science careers and issues.

This study has a twofold purpose represented by two perspectives. Study perspective one intended to assess improvements and changes in program participants' science knowledge and science attitudes based on their SSC I experiences. Data from participants in the 2005 UTMB 7 th and 8th grade Summer Science Camp I were used to address this perspective and assess the program's impact on students' changes in science knowledge and science attitudes through pretests and posttests. Study perspective two assessed information about decisions previous 1993-1999 participants' may have made in selecting advanced STEM courses, and career decisions as a result of participation in the SSC. This second study perspective used data from questionnaires, interviews, and program evaluation forms collected from participants following program completion during the 1993-1999 Summer Science Camp I program years.

The findings were statistically significant for Study perspective one, showing an increase in participants' science knowledge and science attitude. Study perspective two also determined statistical significance through contextual descriptions about the STEM selections of former SSC I participants from a retrospective point of view. The outcomes of this study suggests that the innovative hands-on learning activities, problem-solving experiences and opportunities for reflection conducted in this informal scientific setting were important elements for students' meaningful understanding of science concepts. The study proposes that the elements of this informal program are important and recognizable forces that impact students' science learning, science attitudes, interests, and decisions.

AdviserLowell J. Bethel
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsSchool counseling; Science education
Publication Number3245344

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