Research-Based Science Education
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What is Research-Based Science Education?

RBSE is a method of instruction that models the processes of scientific inquiry and exploration used by scientists to discover new knowledge. It is "research-based" in the sense that it integrates scientific research with education. It brings the excitement of discovery into the classroom by getting students to actually do science, not just learn about it from lectures and activities far removed from the actual research process.

Students participate in an authentic research project by completing observations on a research-class telescope, analyzing the data and interpreting their results. They collect and interpret information in response to their personal exploring and work together as collaborators in a cooperative rather than competitive environment.

RBSE is a natural integration of research and education because it teaches science as it is done. It incorporates several "best practice" teaching strategies which model scientific reasoning. These include focusing on an in-depth project, engaging in out-of class activities, using computers as a tool for data display and analysis, using student logs and concept maps for assessment, and using the Internet. This project will determine the most effective way to implement RBSE curricula in undergraduate classrooms. It will also assess the student gains from participation.

The United States faces a major shortage of scientists because too few Americans are completing STEM majors (NSB 2004). For many students, an introductory astronomy course represents their last formal exposure to science. RBSE gives students an opportunity to experience the rewards of research early enough to pursue science as a career. After all, most scientists chose their career because of their passion for research. But the opportunity to participate in research usually comes only to STEM majors, and not before their junior year. Even if students do not pursue STEM degrees, RBSE develops critical-thinking and teamwork skills that are necessary in any career.

About 5,100 students will participate at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula College and Indiana University. The curricula will be developed to be "off the shelf," such that other undergraduate instructors may use it. Workshops for about thirty instructors per year will be held at the national AAPT and AAS meetings to introduce the RBSE pedagogy and developed curricula, and to develop a national network of educators participating in RBSE.

Flexible teaching modes such as RBSE engage the broad range of diverse, culturally derived orientations to learning. They are effective in allowing women and minorities, groups that are traditionally underrepresented in science, to "find their voice" and develop confidence in their ability to do science (e.g., Adams 1992 and Graves 1994). Thus, RBSE reaches students who may wish to be scientists after given the experience, particularly among underrepresented groups.



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Last updated: 04 July 2007
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