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Capstone Project Examples

Capstone Examples

SMFT Capstone Project Summaries

The Interactive Science Notebook in the Elementary Classroom

The problem:  To determine how the Interactive Science Notebook can be used within the classroom to aid students in demonstrating and communicating their knowledge of science on various assessments more clearly and accurately than students who do not use the Interactive Science Notebook. Intelligence is not a general or whole concept, but is it content specific, numerous, and varied.  The multiple intelligence theory can help to describe how a students is intelligent, rather than if a student is intelligent. Interactive Science Notebooks – A term used to describe a type of not booking system used in the classroom that incorporates several parts, in contrast to traditional note booking. The plan: 3 objectives – 1) Do students who keep an Interactive Science Notebook have a higher rate of change on pre- to post- tests than students who do not? 2) Are students who utilize their Multiple Intelligences on their output page in their Notebooks more thorough and comprehensive in their reflections on quizzes and tests? 3) Does the Notebook help in monitoring students’ learning, encourage questioning and critical thinking, and provide a means of communication between myself and the students. The research being conducted is quantitative, with a control and experimental group.  Data collection will occur during science instruction period of both classes.  The particular unit is “Astronomy”.  Participants in the study are students in two separate science classrooms – one class will use interactive science notebooks, while the other uses traditional notebooks.  The students’ intelligences in the experimental classroom were found using a Multiple Intelligence test.  Data analysis included cross tabulation, descriptive statistics to measure central tendency, T-chart, and a bar graph.  Results: Students in the test group earned a 6.431% greater increase from pre to post test than the control group, and a 15.227% greater range of change from pre test to post test than the control group.  Students in the test group also scored an average of 8% higher on their science notebook scores, and an average of 9% higher on their open notebook quizzes than the control group. Conclusion:  Objectives 1 and 3 were met; objective 2 was partially met, however no evidence of multiple intelligence was utilized during the increase in the experimental group.  The study was limited by a shortened data collection period due to weather, schedule changes, and testing, ultimately causing a decrease in overall notebook checks and quizzes.  Also, the groups of students were uneven due to certain factors such as class size and participation.  Also, ultimately multiple intelligences had to be left out from the Interactive Science Notebook, which altered the original plan of this research study. 

 

The Effects of Cooperative-learning Teaching Strategies on Student learning Outcomes

The problem: Are student-learning outcomes better met by College of Charleston Math 111 students who participate in cooperative–learning groups than their peers who do not?  The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Common Core Standards (CCSS) recognize the need for greater communication among students in order for students to gain depth in their mathematical understanding.  Do the statements made by the NCTM and CCSS apply within a college-level mathematics classroom? Currently, mathematics instruction primarily focuses on a traditional, teacher-centered classroom.          Unlike traditionalists’ teachers, innovative educators believe that learning mathematics occurs via participation, interactions, and community practices; students learn mathematics by helping, asking, explaining, reviewing, and doing in groups.  The NCTM and CCSS emphasize communication not only between teacher and student, but also between students; one method for achieving this type of communication is through cooperative-learning groups.  The plan: Examine two college-level introductory pre-calculus math classes (Math 111), one of which involves cooperative-learning strategies, and one that is a traditional lecture-based classroom.  Students in both classes received the same number of hours of instruction, were taught the same material, and took the same midterm exam. Null and alternative hypotheses were created for each category, expected values were computed, and a chi-square test was performed.  Descriptive statistics were used to compare the mean midterm score for the classes, and standard errors were computed.  Qualitative data were collected via multiple classroom observations. The results: After performing a chi-squared test, the only survey category with a significant p value between sections was year in college (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior).  The mean midterm scores between both sections varied greatly; section 1, the experimental group, had a mean score of 52.31, whereas Section 2, the control group, had a mean score of 70.88.  The mean midterm scores were then examined by year in college.  After aligning the quantitative data with the qualitative data (classroom observation) the researcher noticed that there were more of the desired cooperative learning skills (asking for, and giving help, and sharing ideas) from students in the traditional lecture class than in the cooperative learning section. Discussion/Conclusion:  Data from the surveys relative to results of the study show that students’ attitudes regarding math and demographics do not produce an effect on their midterm score, meaning that midterm scores are likely due to type of instruction.  Observational data showed that the way that cooperative learning was conducted in the Section 1 classroom was not consistent with recommendations from the literature.  At first glance, the traditional lecture classroom was not “innovative”, but upon closer inspection, the professors teaching methods were more potentially more aligned with more effective teaching strategies of mathematics.  For future study, it may be interesting to compare midterm grades of an experimental and control class taught by the same professor. 

 

Anxiety in the Math Classroom (Proposal)

The problem:  To what extent are the changes in anxiety level related to teacher instructional styles and methods?  Math anxiety is a problem because it prevents students from achieving their greatest potential within the math classroom.  This could contribute to the loss of future engineers or scientists, due to the fact that individuals are intimidated to pursue these types of careers due to their perceived lack of math skills.  This study aims to identify what type of teaching styles, within the math classroom, lessen math anxiety. The Plan – The participants in this project will be teachers who are taking a summer mathematics course.  Their anxiety levels will be assessed by using a MARS survey before and after taking said course.  The researcher for this project will also observe these classrooms to determine to what extent these teachers create a classroom that is conductive to decreasing math anxiety.  Potential difficulties include, but are not limited to, external causal factors of anxiety, creating criteria that specifically constitute a proper learning environment, the variety of courses observed and the different students perceptions that come along with this variety, and the fact that there are not enough resources to look at a wide sample.  The grade level of school taught by each teacher will also be considered, since elementary teachers have been found to have high variability in their math anxiety.  A MARS mean will be generated for each individual based on their pre and posttest responses and a t-test will be used to determine if the difference in statistics are significant.  Anticipated Outcomes:  It is expected that the teachers will demonstrate differing levels of inductive teaching which will impact MARS scores.  Small studies, like this one, are susceptible to greater variation.  There may also be a great deal of variation between teachers of different grade levels.  The ultimate desire of this study is to generate a set of teaching principles which will aid future teachers in minimizing the effect of math anxiety in their classroom.   

 

Integrating Elementary Physical Science and Related Literature to Help Increase Teachers Content Knowledge (Proposal)

The problem:  Elementary teachers do not have an adequate amount of elementary science content knowledge.  Professional development workshops are a successful form of content knowledge training for elementary teachers.  Goals and Objectives: The main goal of this workshop is to integrate physical science lesson plans associated with state standards and related literature to help increase elementary educators content knowledge.  In order to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development on these teachers, Pre-test/post-test assessment tools on content will be based for each of the four sessions of the workshop. In addition, a survey will evaluate and analyze the effectiveness of the workshop and of the presenters, and will provide feedback as to what participants gained as a result of attending the workshop. Anticipated Outcomes: The workshop will provide insight to local elementary teachers’ content knowledge, and will add to the content knowledge of the teachers.  The teachers will also leave the workshop with a handbook full of lesson plans on physical science.  Data from the survey will provide information that will be helpful in constructing future workshops.