Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Critical thinking abilities and understanding of science by science teacher-candidates at Oregon State University

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  • This investigation was designed to determine the extent to which students who are completing planned curricula in science education are proficient in aspects of critical thinking, and possess understandings of science consistent with those of the practicing scientist. The effects of science curricula upon the development of these abilities and understandings were examined by comparing group mean test scores of science teacher-candidates to those of (a) freshmen in social science education, (b) science education freshmen, (c) elementary teacher-candidates, (d) social science teacher-candidates, and (e) in-service science teachers represented by Academic Year Institute Participants. Subgroups of science teacher-candidates were compared in order to assess further the effect of science curricula upon the development of critical thinking ability and understanding of science. Criterion tests were the Cornell Critical Thinking Test, Form X, and the Test on Understanding Science, Form W. The study being of a post-test only design, the criterion instruments were administered to the freshmen and in-service teachers at the beginning of Fall Term 1964. Teacher-candidates completed these tests during the term that they were enrolled in their respective special teaching methods courses. Single classification analyses of covariance using CCTT and TOUS group means were employed to statistically test the null hypotheses. Combined verbal and mathematical subtest means on the Scholastic Aptitude Test were applied as covariance controls of scholastic aptitude while group mean accumulative grade point averages were similarly used to control for group differences in academic achievement. F ratios were computed and evaluated to determine whether differences in group means on the criterion instruments were significant. The data were further analyzed to determine correlations among the variables and to assess prevalent misunderstandings of science. FINDINGS The following conclusions were drawn from the data analyzed in this investigation: 1. Both critical thinking abilities and understanding of science by the science teacher-candidates were significantly (five percent level) greater than were those of freshmen in social science education, freshmen in science education, elementary teacher-candidates, and in-service science teachers. 2. Science teacher-candidates did not differ significantly from social science teacher-candidates in either critical thinking ability or in understanding of science. 3. Neither critical thinking ability nor understanding of science, as measured by the criterion tests, were major learning outcomes of the study of college science. This conclusion was based on: a) Negative or non-significant correlations between both CCTT and TOUS scores and the total number of science grade points earned by members of each group. b) Lack of a significant difference in critical thinking ability or in understanding of science between science teacher-candidates and social science teacher-candidates, the latter group having completed half as many credits in science as had the former. c) Failure to find a significant difference in either critical thinking ability or understanding of science between high and low subgroups of science teacher-candidates selected on each of the following bases: 1) Total number of science grade points earned. 2) The biological-physical science ratio of science credits completed. 4. Science teacher-candidates evidenced an understanding of science superior to that of groups of students similar to those which they would be expected to teach. 5. Science teacher-candidates and in-service science teachers evidenced several misconceptions of the nature of science and scientists as did the non-science oriented groups. 6. Although all the groups revealed misunderstandings of the nature of scientific models, hypotheses, theories, and laws, these misunderstandings were significantly more numerous for the groups whose members had studied relatively little college science.
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