Unifying Science for Students

A central assumption in most systems of education is that students can apply knowledge and skills beyond the context in which it was originally learned.  However, evidence in the education research literature of successful applications of knowledge across contexts, also called transfer, has been scarce.  In this project, research will be conducted within an undergraduate course series for future elementary teachers designed to develop coherent ideas about energy across four different science disciplines:  physics, Earth science, biology, and chemistry. A longitudinal study will generate quantitative measures of the transfer of energy concepts from the original learning context, physics, to a target domain, chemistry. Interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of written class work will be used to describe “what transfer looks like” by developing a taxonomy of discipline-specific transfer attempts. Finally, a quasi-experimental study will investigate the impact of metacognitive writing assignments on transfer.  Documenting what works in supporting transfer is imperative because transfer is both known to be elusive and is an assumed outcome on which many education systems are built. Finally, this project may help to establish the integrated science course series as a model of teacher preparation, and science education in general, for potential adaptation at other institutions.

For more information contact:

Emily Borda, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Emily.Borda@wwu.edu
Andrew Boudreaux, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Andrew.Boudreaux@wwu.edu
Todd Haskell, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Todd.Haskell@wwu.edu
Sara Julin, Co-Principal Investigator, WCC, email:  sjulin@whatcom.ctc.edu