National reform movements are calling for undergraduate science survey course faculty to design and deliver science instruction using the principles of inquiry. This astronomy education project is iteratively developing, field-testing, and disseminating an inquiry-oriented teaching approach framed by the notions of "backwards faded-scaffolding" as an overarching theme for instruction. In this approach, students are guided through a number of scientific projects, with reduced guidance in each successive project. The reduction starts from the end of the process and works backwards, and thus the term 'backwards-faded scaffolding.'

This project is transformative in that faculty need instructional materials that focus on teaching science as inquiry while at the same time are practical to implement. The objectives of the project are to: create effective and easy-to-implement curriculum materials based on contemporary teaching methods designed to increase non-science majoring undergraduates' and pre-service teachers' abilities to participate in scientific inquiry; determine the extent to which learners' participation in inquiry using "backwards faded scaffolding" impacts their conceptual understanding of astronomy and of scientific inquiry; and widely disseminate the results and resources developed in this project to the astronomy teaching community through professional conference presentations, refereed publications, an interactive web site, and through a collaborative partnership with a publishing house. The evaluation plan is to use a single-group, multiple-measures, quasi-experimental design to explore students' enhanced content knowledge of science and inquiry.

The INTELLECTUAL MERIT of the project is to iteratively create and systematically evaluate an innovative approach to inquiry-oriented teaching in order to contribute to the research literature on undergraduate STEM education.

The BROADER IMPACTS are to provide professors with new, adaptable, and well-evaluated tools for working with undergraduate non-science majors and future teachers where large numbers of diverse students are successfully conducting meaningful and fully supported scientific investigations.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Duncan E. McBride
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University of Wyoming
United States
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