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Theses Doctoral

Using Forensic Science As a Context to Enhance Scientific Literacy

Bhairam-Raza, Gita C. P.

Major reform documents have promoted the use of inquiry-based curriculum to achieve scientific literacy. Forensic science is an authentic subject that can be used to link the science classroom to a real-world working environment. Given the nature of the subject, forensic science fosters student interest and can be used as a tool to promote scientific literacy. This mixed methods analytical study investigated the use of inquiry-based instruction in the context of a forensic science curriculum and examined its influence on the use of higher-order thinking skills and the development of scientific literacy characteristics. Twenty-four high school students participated in a 6-week inquiry-based forensic science unit designed by the researcher. The Five E inquiry-based instructional model (Bybee and Van Scotter, 2007) was used. Students completed mini-evaluations and group journal entries, and participated in focus group discussions and classroom observations. Qualitative results indicated three major learning outcomes related to the achievement of scientific literacy: 1) the value and benefits of group work and discussion in the problem-solving process; 2) the importance of using higher-order thinking skills in the evaluation and analysis of information; and 3) connections between classroom learning and real-world applications. Five major characteristics of the forensic science curriculum that supported student engagement included: a) opportunities for students to participate in relevant and realistic real-world learning situations through role-playing; b) the goals and objectives of the lessons requiring students to take charge of their own learning; c) the unit objectives' focus on problem-solving skills and deep understanding of science content and processes; d) knowledge construction occurring through social negotiation and collaboration; and e) students reflecting on their thoughts and ideas during the learning process because of self-reflection opportunities embedded within the curriculum. Quantitative analysis of data revealed an increasing level of higher-order thinking across the sequence of mini-evaluation topics and an enhanced use of cognitive skills as the forensic science curriculum progressed. The findings from this study indicated that forensic science can be used as an avenue to promote the development of scientific literacy. The results are beneficial for educators and curriculum developers interested in designing curricula that support scientific literacy objectives in the classroom.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Moore-Mensan, Felicia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 21, 2013