SMFE Program Capstone Project Examples

Capstone Proposals

Anxiety in the Math Classroom (Proposal Abstract)

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 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.  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 Abstract)

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.  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. 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. 

The effects of virtual manipulatives on high school geometry students' self-efficacy.  (Proposal Abstract), Virginia C. Broadway, 2017.

This study is designed to determine if using virtual manipulatives throughout a high school geometry course will affect students’ self-efficacy. Virtual manipulatives have become more accessible and more varied in the last decade. According to Moyer, Bolyard and, Spikell (2002) “a virtual manipulative is best defined as an interactive, Web-based visual representation of a dynamic object that presents opportunities for constructing mathematical knowledge.” If students are able to construct their own knowledge first through the use of virtual manipulatives, then it is expected to see an increase in students’ self-efficacy. Increasing student self-efficacy allows students’ performance to increase and students to feel more confident in their approaches to problem solving. Any effects on student performance will be determined through the use of a content pre and post test. This research mainly seeks to identify if there is a change in students self-efficacy after having used virtual manipulatives throughout a high school geomety course. This will be measured using a self-efficacy survey before and after a 9 week period. The study will also look at student achievement through a pre and post test. Student achievement will be studied because self-efficacy can effect performance. Bandura says, “a strong sense of efficacy enhancs human accomplishment and personal well-being.” (1994) Pajares states that one of the most powerful sources for one's self-efficacy is having mastery experiences. Rowbotham and Schmitz (2013) explain that, “in order to develop resilient self-efficacy beliefs, one must be expierenced in overcoming obstacles by investing enough effort. Individuals become stronger with perserverence despite adversity. To expierence mastery it is vital to meet tasks that are demanding but not overstraining to a person’s abilities. Thus, educators can strive for a good fit between task complexity and student’s abilities.” Virtual manipualtives will be used for students to discover knowledge and come to their own conclusions. During the process of using virtual manipulatives students will have to try different strategies to check if their conclusion are correct. This process over a 9-week period will help students develop a sense of mastery.This research's goal is to create a mastery experience through the use of virtual manipulatives, and observe the effect this has on students self-efficacy.

Effects on Achievement and Motivation in Middle School Math with a Flipped Method Approach, (Proposal Abstract), Emily Zogas, 2020. 

The focus of this study is to determine how effective a flipped classroom model to increase student achievement and motivation in middle school mathematics.  Students in a 6th grade honors mathematics class will be involved in the study.  The control setting will consist of the 6th graders being taught using a traditional teaching approach. The test group will consist of the same group of students, however they will be taught using a flipped classroom approach.  Students will take a pretest and posttest before and after each teaching method was used.  The students will also take a survey after each teaching method was used to measure their motivation throughout the course.  The rationale is to better understand the effects on student achievement and motivation using a flipped classroom model in a middle school math classroom.  The significance of the action based research is to provide data on student motivation and achievement in a middle school math classroom using a flipped classroom model.

Capstone Project Reports

The Interactive Science Notebook in the Elementary Classroom (Project Summary)

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. 

Problem-Based Learning through Citizen Science and the Adolescent Montessori Learning Environment (Project Abstract), Heather Crider, 2020

Conventional classroom environments that use passive learning, such as teacher-driven lecture, can leave students feeling disengaged and uninterested in their learning, particularly with adolescent students. By contrast, active learning, such as learning through the Montessori method, allow students opportunities for students to experience novelty, involvement, and meaningfulness with their learning. Over 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori developed a teaching method focused on student developmental needs. For adolescent students, this includes time outside the classroom, working with the land. In the 21st century classroom, Montessori’s vision can be upheld through problem-based learning (PBL) through citizen science. In addition, PBL through citizen science may increase student engagement and interest in earth science, as they feel invested in their learning and the contributions being made to the greater science community. This study seeks explore how levels of engagement and interest change and how they relate to learning achievement after immersion in a citizen science project. This study also seeks to explore outcomes of PBL through citizen science and how it relates to the Montessori adolescent classroom. Quantitative data and qualitative data were gathered and analyzed from a small sample of seventh and eighth grade Montessori students in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Initial results appear to show an increase in student reported levels of interest, but not engagement. Student achievement did not impact interest or engagement levels, however the citizen science project may have increased achievement levels compared to past achievement tests. Based on student feedback, PBL using citizen science appears to satisfy many of the qualities necessary for the adolescent Montessori classroom. Due to the small samples size and circumstantial challenges, statistical generalizations cannot be made from the results. However, the results of this study can be used as an encouraging springboard for future research.

Examining Summer Ecology Tours’ Ability to Promote Science Understanding in Participants (Project Report Abstract), Juliana Smith, 2016

Outdoor education, or the presentation of classroom curriculum in a natural, outdoor environment, has been shown to be an effective means by which to increase science content understanding, learning motivation, and retention in students of all ages and learning propensities. Being outdoors provides students natural opportunities to learn through real-world-science experiences, an option severely lacking in the ossified classroom setting. A possible solution would be to provide these experiences to students beyond the school year during summertime activities. Current outdoor education research primarily assesses the effectiveness of in-school-year field trips and on-campus outdoor classrooms, neglecting the presence of ecology tours taking place year-round. Ecology tours research has thus far only targeted assessing their impacts on environmental attitudes, like conservation and preservation, versus impacts on science content understanding in general. In order to begin exploring summer ecology tours as an outlet for the translation of science content to school-age students, ecology kayaking tours venturing into a salt marsh habitat were observed at a barrier island resort. In addition to observational data, questionnaires, interviews, and follow-up surveys were conducted. The data collected revealed an impact on participants’ science content knowledge, retention, and attitudes about nature. To better understand the impacts observed, future studies should be conducted.