(2020) Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research. 2, 1, 6. Abstract
In this case study we investigated how differences in the achievement goal orientations of a high school biology teacher and her 9th grade (14 years old) student led to tensions between them in their perspectives of what it meant to do school science, leading the teacher to under-estimate the student and recommend that she abandon further studies in biology. During 9th grade, Israeli students decide upon their preferred subject of emphasis for the rest of high school. The student wanted to major in biology but the teacher felt it was beyond her abilities. While expectancy-value theory is typically used to explain the mechanism through which under-estimation can lead to a lower sense of self-efficacy and lower performance, the reasons why a science teacher may under-estimate a student have yet to be studied. We analyze both the student and the teacher’s motives and learn that unforeseen obstacles may lie on a student’s road to science.
(2020) Education Sciences. 10, 1, 20. Abstract
Knowledge-in-Use, i.e., the ability to apply what one has learned, is a major goal of education and involves the ability to transfer one's knowledge. While some general principles of knowledge transfer have been revealed, the literature is full of inconclusive results and it remains hard to predict successful transfer. However, research into expertise suggests that how one organizes one's knowledge is critical for successful transfer. Drawing on data from a larger study on the learning of energy, we employed network analysis to investigate how the organization of students' knowledge about energy influenced their ability to transfer and what role achievement goal orientation may have played in this. We found that students that had more coherently organized knowledge networks were more successful in transfer. Furthermore, we also found a connection between mastery goal orientation and the organization of students' knowledge networks. Our results extend the literature by providing evidence for a direct connection between the organization of students' knowledge networks, their success in transfer, and their goal orientation and hint at the complexities in the relationship between mastery approach goal orientation and successful transfer beyond what is reported in the literature.
(2019) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 56, 10, p. 1341-1361 Abstract
Energy is a central concept in science in every discipline and also an essential player in many of the issues facing people everywhere on the globe. However, studies have shown that by the end of K-12 schooling, most students do not reach the level of understanding required to be able to use energy to make sense of a wide range of phenomena. Many researchers have questioned whether the conceptual foundations of traditional approaches to energy instruction may be responsible for students' difficulties. In response to these concerns, we developed and tested a novel approach to middle school physical science energy instruction that was informed by the recommendations of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012a) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (NGSS Lead States, 2013). This new approach differs substantially from more traditional approaches to energy instruction in that it does not require energy forms and it emphasizes connections between energy, systems, and fields that mediate interaction-at-a-distance. We investigated student learning during this novel approach and contrasted it with student learning within a comparable unit based on a more traditional approach to energy instruction. Our findings indicate that students who learned in the new approach outperformed students who learned in the traditional approach in every quantitative and qualitative aspect considered in this study, irrespective of their prior knowledge of energy. They developed more parsimonious knowledge networks in relation to energy that focused primarily around the concept of energy transfer. This study warrants further investigation into the value of this new approach to energy instruction in both middle and high school.
(2019) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 56, 8, p. 1037-1059 Abstract
The important role of self-efficacy (SE) in students' motivation, engagement, persistence, and academic achievements has been reconfirmed by ample research, both in general and for STEM disciplines. As most studies focused on traditional school systems, additional research is needed on how science SE develops in different educational environments, which was the goal of this study. Data were collected from 1979 students in Grades 5-9 from 19 traditional, Waldorf, and democratic schools in Israel. Students completed a questionnaire that assessed their science self-efficacy (SSE), general and academic self-efficacy (GASE), and the sources of their SSE: teachers', parents', and peers' social persuasions, vicarious experiences and mastery experiences. Results revealed that SSE and GASE differed in their levels and in the way they changed with grade. These differences, and variations in the roles of the various sources of SSE, appeared to be influenced by the schools' cultures and curricula. Quantitative results are accompanied by verbal illustrative examples from interviews with students and teachers.
Teachers' Mastery Goals: Using a Self-Report Survey to Study the Relations between Teaching Practices and Students' Motivation for Science Learning(2018) Research in Science Education. 48, p. 181-206 Abstract
Employing achievement goal theory (Ames Journal of Educational psychology, 84(3), 261-271, 1992), we explored science teachers' instruction and its relation to students' motivation for science learning and school culture. Based on the TARGETS framework (Patrick et al. The Elementary School Journal, 102(1), 35-58, 2001) and using data from 95 teachers, we developed a self-report survey assessing science teachers' usage of practices that emphasize mastery goals. We then used this survey and hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) analyses to study the relations between 35 science teachers' mastery goals in each of the TARGETS dimensions, the decline in their grade-level 5-8 students' (N = 1.356) classroom and continuing motivation for science learning, and their schools' mastery goal structure. The findings suggest that adolescents' declining motivation for science learning results in part from a decreasing emphasis on mastery goals by schools and science teachers. Practices that relate to the nature of tasks and to student autonomy emerged as most strongly associated with adolescents' motivation and its decline with age.
(2018) Studies in Science Education. 54, 2, p. 177-206 Abstract
School instruction is critical for helping students use energy as a lens for making sense of phenomena, however, students often struggle to see the usefulness of energy analysis for interpreting the world around them. One reason for this may be an over-reliance on the idea of energy forms in introductory energy instruction, which may unintentionally suppress, rather than prompt, insights into how and why phenomena occur. We argue that an approach to energy instruction that emphasizes energy transfers between systems, and does not require the idea of energy forms, provides students with a more consistent and useful set of tools for interpreting phenomena. Such a perspective requires connecting the energy concept to the notion that fields, which mediate interaction-at-a-distance, are a real physical system that can transfer energy - an idea that is rarely presented in middle school science. We outline an instructional approach in which middle school students learn to interpret phenomena by modelling energy transfers between systems of interacting objects and fields. We argue that this approach presents a more physically accurate picture of energy, helps align energy instruction across disciplines, and supports students in seeing the value of energy as a lens for making sense of phenomena.
Teachers' views on implementing storytelling as a way to motivate inquiry learning in high-school chemistry teaching(2017) Chemistry Education Research and Practice. Abstract
Educational research and policy suggest inquiry as one of the most prominent ways of promoting effective science education. However, traditional approaches towards inquiry learning are not always sufficiently motivating for all learners. The EU-funded project, TEMI – Teaching Enquiry with Mysteries Incorporated, suggests that mysterious scientific phenomena introduced via drama-based pedagogies and showmanship skills could have the potential to engage more students emotionally in science and to entice them to solve the mysteries through inquiry. This paper reports teachers’ views on using storytelling in connection with mysteries in the science classroom. The data stem from a case of chemistry teachers’ continuous professional development within the TEMI project in Israel. Data were collected from 14 teachers by means of a questionnaire, interviews, observations, and written reflection essays. The case discusses teachers’ views on the benefits and difficulties of using story-based science inquiry activities.
(2017) International Journal of Science Education. 39, 1, p. 86-103 Abstract
Israeli students and their families can choose between state-funded secular, religious, orthodox, and other alternative schools (e. g., Waldorf, Montessori, democratic). Earlier studies showed that the motivation to engage with science differs greatly between Israeli students in secular schools and democratic schools, with these differences being attributed to differences in school culture rather than home influence (Vedder-Weiss & Fortus, 2011, 2012). In this study we extend earlier studies by looking at religious statefunded schools that serve 18% of Israel's Jewish population. These schools provide a unique research environment since from grade 6 they are gender-separated. We examined the science-related mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoid goal orientations, perceptions of the science teachers, parents, schools, and peers' goal emphases in relation to science of the students in these schools. We compared between students in religious schools (newly collected data) and secular schools (data reported in prior studies), and found that there is a distinct difference between these two populations that is associated with differing attitudes toward gender and science at these schools. This study provides additional evidence for the influence of culture on students' motivation to engage with science, suggests mechanisms by which this influence may occur.
(2016) Research in Science Education. 46, p. 787-810 Abstract
Modeling is a core scientific practice. This study probed the meta-modeling knowledge (MMK) of high school students who study science but had not had any explicit prior exposure to modeling as part of their formal schooling. Our goals were to (A) evaluate the degree to which MMK is dependent on content knowledge and (B) assess whether the upper levels of the modeling learning progression defined by Schwarz et al. (2009) are attainable by Israeli K-12 students. Nine Israeli high school students studying physics, chemistry, biology, or general science were interviewed individually, once using a context related to the science subject that they were learning and once using an unfamiliar context. All the interviewees displayed MMK superior to that of elementary and middle school students, despite the lack of formal instruction on the practice. Their MMK was independent of content area, but their ability to engage in the practice of modeling was content dependent. This study indicates that, given proper support, the upper levels of the learning progression described by Schwarz et al. (2009) may be attainable by K-12 science students. The value of explicitly focusing on MMK as a learning goal in science education is considered.
(2015) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 52, 10, p. 1408-1425 Abstract
Curricular coherence is an indication of the alignment of content ideas, the depth at which they are studied, and the sequencing of ideas within and across grade levels and has been identified as an important predictor of student performance. This study examined the contribution of inter-unit coherence on energy to the learning of this concept over time. The concept of energy was interwoven as a core disciplinary idea and as a cross-cutting theme in six different units in a reform-based middle school curriculum. The unit posttests of students from a national field test of the curriculum were analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling to identify ways in which ideas learned in some units supported the learning in other units. Results indicate that inter-unit coherence enabled students to develop a deeper understanding of energy by providing repeated exposure over years rather than weeks, enabling knowledge constructed in one unit to become the prior knowledge to be built upon in subsequent units, and offering a broader range of contexts in which students could apply their ideas than could be accomplished in stand-alone units.
(2014) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 51, 7, p. 821-835 Abstract
A bit more than 10 years after Alsop and Watts pointed out that “Despite the widespread belief that emotions are a central part of learning and teaching, contemporary work in science education exploring affect is scant” (2003, p. 1043), the level of attention given by science education researcher to affect has changed little. In the 11 years spanning 2001–2011, less than 10% of the articles published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST), Science Education (SciEd), and the International Journal of Science Education (IJSE) have dealt with emotional perspectives on teaching and learning science, such as interest, motivation, attitudes, and self‐efficacy, sometimes called affect (Alsop & Watts, 2003). While this 10% actually reflects a significant number of articles (138), when one considers the centrality of affect to teaching and learning and the broad range of topics that are related to affect, it is concerning that it has received relatively so little attention.
With the hope of promoting awareness of the importance of this topic and past research on it, the rest of this article provides (A) my hypothesis why affect has been under‐attended to by the science education research community and the ramifications of this under‐attendance and (B) an overview of the research on affect in science education that has been published in JRST, SciEd, and IJSE between 2001 and 2011. I have made no attempt to synthesize or do a meta‐analysis of this research; my purpose is to provide readers with a sense of some of the important work that has been done, to guide researchers and teachers to articles that may be relevant to their work, and to point out some weaknesses that should be avoided in the future. The overview ends by directing readers to a virtual issue of JRST on affect which presents some excellent examples of studies on affect that were published by JRST in the past decade.
(2014) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 51, 4, p. 497-522 Abstract
Continuing motivation for science learning may be manifested through engagement in extracurricular science-related activities, which are not the result of school or other external requirements. Very few articles have appeared in the last decade on this important aspect of science learning. This article presents a survey based on seven Likert-type items for measuring adolescents' continuing motivation for science. It describes how the survey was developed, tested, and used to explore the relations between school type, grade, and gender and adolescents' continuing motivation for science learning. Data on the continuing motivation of 2,958 Israeli 5th-8th grade students, from traditional and democratic schools, were collected and analyzed using polytomous Rasch techniques and hierarchical linear modeling. The results indicate that in both types of schools girls had lower continuing motivation for science than boys, and that while the continuing motivation of both boys and girls in traditional schools decreased between 5th and 8th grade, the continuing motivation of students in democratic schools remained constant during this period.
School, teacher, peers, and parents' goals emphases and adolescents' motivation to learn science in and out of school(2013) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 50, 8, p. 952-988 Abstract
Achievement goal theory distinguishes between mastery goals (the goals of developing competence) and performance goals (the goals of demonstrating competence) [Ames  Journal of Educational Psychology 84: 261-271]. In this study, we employed this theory aiming to better understand why adolescents' motivation to learn science declines with age in many schools yet not in others. We collected survey data from 5(th) to 8(th) grade Israeli students (N=1,614). Utilizing Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) methods, we investigated the relations between students' perceptions of goals emphases in their environment (by parents, peers, teachers, and schools), their own goals orientations and their engagement in science learning in and out of school (classroom and extra-curricular engagement). In addition, we compared between these relations in traditional and democratic schools and in elementary and middle school grade levels. Findings show that: (A) perceptions of the goals that significant adults (parents and teachers) emphasize were better predictors of students' motivation, in and out of school, than perceptions of the goals that peers and schools emphasize; (B) perceptions of teachers' performance goals emphases negatively predicted classroom engagement; (C) the relative effect of perceived parents' mastery emphasis on extra-curricular engagement was higher in elementary grades than in middle school grades; (D) the relative effect of perceived school's mastery emphasis was higher in middle school grades than in elementary grades; and (E) students' mastery goals orientation in science class was a strong predictor of their extra-curricular engagement. Implications for both research and practice are discussed.
(2013) South African Journal of Education. 33, 1, Abstract
This paper reports on South African teachers' perceptions of the educational value of new topics in a revised physical sciences high school curriculum, their content knowledge competency of these topics, and their pedagogical content knowledge in teaching them. In view of the historical inequalities of the South African education system, a focus of the study was comparison of these perceptions of teachers based at schools which are diverse in terms of location, student population, and availability of resources. We adopted a mixed methods approach in collecting and analysing data from a large-scale survey of teachers through a structured questionnaire, and followed this with interviews with 10 teachers in seeking more in-depth explanations of the findings. The study revealed that teachers at township and rural schools previously designated for black students, and suburban and city schools previously reserved for white students, have a positive perception of the new topics introduced into the revised curriculum. However, teachers at all these schools expressed uncertainly as to their content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge of the new topics.
(2012) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 49, 9, p. 1057-1095 Abstract
This is a mix methods follow-up study in which we reconfirm the findings from an earlier study [Vedder-Weiss & Fortus  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(2), 199216]. The findings indicate that adolescents' declining motivation to learn science, which was found in many previous studies [Galton  Moving to secondary school: Initial encounters and their effects. Perspectives on Education, 2(Primary-secondary Transfer in Science), 5-21. Retrieved from www.wellcome.ac.uk/perspectives; Osborne, Simon, & Collins,  International Journal of Science Education 25(9), 10491079], is not an inevitable phenomenon since it appears not to occur in Israeli democratic schools. In addition to reinforcing previous results in a different sample, new results show that the differences between the two school types are also apparent in terms of students' self-efficacy in science learning, students' perceptions of their teachers' goals emphases, and students' perception of their peers' goals orientation. Quantitative results are accompanied by rich verbal examples of ways in which students view and articulate their own and their teachers' goal emphases. Content analysis of students' interviews showed that students in traditional schools are directed more towards goals that are external and related to the outcome of learning in comparison to democratic school students who are motivated more by goals that are internal and related to the process of learning. Structure analysis of these interviews suggests that democratic school students experience a greater sense of autonomy in their science learning than traditional school students do. Implications for research on students' motivation are discussed, such as considering not only the teacher and the classroom but also the school culture.
(2012) Chemistry Education Research and Practice. 13, 3, p. 248-267 Abstract
Chemical bonding knowledge is fundamental and essential to the understanding of almost every topic in chemistry, but it is very difficult to learn. While many studies have characterized some of the central elements of knowledge of this topic, these elements of knowledge have not been systematically organized. We describe the development and testing of a matrix that represents: (A) a systematic organization of the conceptual knowledge on chemical bonding required at high school level and (B) a tool for representing students' conceptual knowledge of this topic. The matrix contains three strands: the structure of matter at the nanoscopic level, electrostatic interactions between charged entities, and energy aspects related to bonding. In each strand there are hierarchically ordered cells that contain fine grain elements of knowledge. Using various instruments, students' conceptual knowledge of chemical bonding was assessed and mapped onto the matrix, generating graphical representations of their knowledge. New computational and online technologies enable automatic data collection and its analysis. Therefore, we believe that this organization and representation of small grain size elements of knowledge can be a useful for the development of a detailed diagnostic tool of knowledge of chemical bonding.
Transforming Energy Instruction in Middle School to Support Integrated Understanding and Future Learning(2011) Science Education. 95, 4, p. 670-699 Abstract
Energy is a fundamental unifying concept of science, yet common approaches to energy instruction in middle school have shown little success with helping students develop their naive ideas about energy into more sophisticated understandings that are useful for making sense of their experiences. While traditional energy instruction often focuses on simple calculations of energy in idealized systems, we developed a new middle school energy unit that focuses qualitatively on the energy transformations that occur in everyday, nonidealized, systems. In this article, we describe our approach to energy instruction and report the effects this approach had on students' energy conceptions, ability to perform on distal criterion-referenced assessments, and preparation for future energy-related learning. Results indicate that during instruction, students' energy conceptions progress from a set of disconnected ideas toward an integrated understanding that is organized around the principle of transformation, and that these more integrated conceptions both boost students' ability to make sense of everyday phenomena and lay the groundwork for more efficient and meaningful energy-related learning in the future.
(2011) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 48, 2, p. 199-216 Abstract
There is a growing awareness that science education should center not just on knowledge acquisition but developing the foundation for lifelong learning. However, for intentional learning of science to occur in school, out of school, and after school, there needs to be a motivation to learn science. Prior research had shown that students' motivation to learn science tends to decrease during adolescence [Anderman and Young  Journal of Research in Science Teaching 31: 811-831; Lee and Anderson  American Educational Research Journal 30: 585-610; Simpson and Oliver  Science Education 74: 1-18]. This study compared 5th through 8th grade students' self-reported goal orientations, engagement in science class, continuing motivation for science learning, and perceptions of their schools' and parents' goals emphases, in Israeli traditional and democratic schools. The results show that the aforementioned decline in adolescents' motivation for science learning in school and out of school is not an inevitable developmental trend, since it is apparent only in traditional schools but not in democratic ones. The results suggest that the non-declining motivation of adolescents in democratic schools is not a result of home influence but rather is related to the school culture.
Developing a Learning Progression for Scientific Modeling: Making Scientific Modeling Accessible and Meaningful for Learners(2009) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 46, 6, p. 632-654 Abstract
Modeling is a core practice in science and a central part of scientific literacy. We present theoretical and empirical motivation for a learning progression for scientific modeling that aims to make the practice accessible and meaningful for learners. We define scientific modeling as including the elements of the practice (constructing, using, evaluating, and revising scientific models) and the metaknowledge that guides and motivates the practice (e.g., understanding the nature and purpose of models). Our learning progression for scientific modeling includes two dimensions that combine metaknowledge and elements of practice-scientific models as tools for predicting and explaining, and models change as understanding improves. We describe levels of progress along these two dimensions of our progression and illustrate them with classroom examples from 5th and 6th graders engaged in modeling. Our illustrations indicate that both groups of learners productively engaged in constructing and revising increasingly accurate models that included powerful explanatory mechanisms, and applied these models to make predictions for closely related phenomena. Furthermore, we show how students engaged in modeling practices move along levels of this progression. In particular, students moved from illustrative to explanatory models, and developed increasingly sophisticated views of the explanatory nature of models, shifting from models as correct or incorrect to models as encompassing explanations for multiple aspects of a target phenomenon. They also developed more nuanced reasons to revise models. Finally, we present challenges for learners in modeling practices-such as understanding how constructing a model can aid their own sensemaking, and seeing model building as a way to generate new knowledge rather than represent what they have already learned. (C) 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 46: 632-654, 2009
(2009) Science Education. 93, 1, p. 86-108 Abstract
Making assumptions is an important step in solving many real-world problems. This study investigated whether participants who could solve well-defined physics problems could also solve a real-world physics problem that involved the need to make assumptions. The participants, who all had at least a BA in physics, were videotaped "thinking aloud" while solving three well-defined and one real-world problem and then interviewed about the problem-solving process. All the problems dealt with the same scientific content. The recordings were analyzed to identify similarities and differences in the ways the problems were solved and to see which steps in the solution of the problems posed the greatest cognitive difficulty for each participant. Results indicate that (a) the process of making the constraining assumptions needed to convert the real-world problem into a well-defined one was the most difficult step for all, and (b) only the participants who had prior experience making constraining assumptions were able to make the needed assumptions and solve the real-world problem. These findings suggest a need to support physics students develop this important skill. (C) 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 93:86-108, 2009
(2008) Elementary School Journal. 109, 2, p. 199-219 Abstract
Coherent curricula are needed to help students develop deep understanding of important ideas in science. Too often students experience curriculum that is piecemeal and lacks coordination and consistency across time, topics, and disciplines. Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST) is a middle school science curriculum project that attempts to address these problems. IQWST units are built on 5 key aspects of coherence: (1) learning goal coherence; (2) intraunit coherence between content learning goals, scientific practices, and curricular activities; (3) interunit coherence supporting multidisciplinary connections and dependencies; (4) coherence between professional development and curriculum materials to support classroom enactment; and (5) coherence between science literacy expectations and general literacy skills. Dealing with these aspects of coherence involves trade-offs and challenges. This article illustrates some of the challenges related to the first 3 aspects of coherence and the way we have chosen to deal with them. Preliminary results regarding the effectiveness of IQWST's approach to these challenges are presented.
(2005) International Journal of Science Education. 27, 7, p. 855-879 Abstract
Design-based science (DBS) is a science pedagogy in which new scientific knowledge and problem-solving skills are constructed in the context of designing artifacts. This paper examines whether the enactment of a DBS unit supported students' efforts to construct and transfer new science knowledge and 'designerly' problem-solving skills to the solution of a new real-world design problem in a real-world setting. One hundred and forty-nine students participated in the enactment of a DBS unit. Their understanding of the curricular content was assessed by identical pre-instructional and post-instructional written tests. They were then given a new design problem as a transfer task. There was a statistically significant increase on scores from pre-test to post-test with an effect size of 1.8. There was a stronger correlation between the scores of the transfer task and those of the post-test than with those of the pre-test; we use this finding to suggest that the knowledge that was constructed during the unit enactment supported the solution of the transfer task. This has implications for the development of science curricula that aim to lead to the construction of knowledge and skills that may be useful in extra-classroom settings. Whether participation in consecutive enactments of different DBS units increases transfer remains to be investigated in more depth.
(2004) Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 41, 10, p. 1081-1110 Abstract
Design-Based Science (DBS) is a pedagogy in which the goal of designing an artifact contextualizes all curricular activities. Design is viewed as a vehicle through which scientific knowledge and real-world problem-solving skills can be constructed. Following Anderson and Hogan's (1999) call to document the design of new science pedagogics, this goal of this article is twofold: (a) to describe DBS, and (b) to evaluate whether significant science knowledge was constructed during consecutive enactments of three DBS units. In this study, 92 students participated in the consecutive enactments of three different DBS units. The development of their scientific knowledge was assessed through posters and models constructed during the curricular enactments and by identical pre- and post-instruction written tests. The post-tests Showed considerable gains compared with the pretests, while the models and posters show application of this newly constructed knowledge in solving a design problem. These positive results support efforts being made to restructure school science around inquiry-based curricula in general and design-based curricula in particular. (C) 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.