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Education Studies

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This research examines how adolescents think about knowledge and knowing, evaluate competing sources of knowledge, trust certain sources of knowledge, justify knowledge, and approach certainty of knowledge, processes collectively referred to as “personal epistemology.” This project is a four-year, multi-method and multi-measure study in which students from grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 were interviewed about their views on knowledge and knowing. In this set of analyses, we examined the question of domain specificity in adolescent epistemic development and found that personal epistemology is not consistent across all domains, but rather, adolescents’ views about knowledge vary depending on the domain of knowledge that they evaluate. By comparing adolescents’ views on historical knowledge vs. scientific knowledge, we found that adolescents were more likely to trust sources of knowledge in science, to justify sources of scientific knowledge as more trustworthy and valid, and to view knowledge in science as more certain.

People

Lauren Goldstein
Researcher

Barbara Hofer
Sponsor & Professor of Psychology

“What if you had two accounts of the causes of a war, one by a person who lived at that time, and another by a historian, a history expert, who didn’t live through the war, but who has researched it a lot. Which one would you find more believable?”

77% of 6th graders, 73% of 8th graders, and 36% of 12th graders chose contemporary.

Most Common Rationale for Choosing Contemporary

Grade Because Witness Personally Experienced it Because Historian’s Information Could Be Wrong
6th (n=20) 100% (n=20) 40% (n=8)
8th (n=24) 100% (n=24) 21% (n=5)
12th (n=9) 78% (n=7) 11% (n=1)

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Primary sources, diaries, ancient coins, a mere scrap of paper, are the materials from which the stories of the past are discovered. The project I undertook while interning at the National Archives and Records Administration addressed how we, as teachers of history, keep primary sources available, captivating, and the focus of historical education. I investigated this directly by assisting in the testing and presenting of DocsTeach, one of the most innovative historical tools for educators, which provides interactive activities built from a database of digitized primary sources. I helped increase access to records further with use of social media. The growing social phenomenon of digitization is not just connecting us with our future; it is connecting us to our past like never before, lowering the barrier of access for students young and old. The educational tools being created around these now easily accessible records, such as DocsTeach, are just the beginning.

People

Brittany Gendron
Researcher

Amy Morsman
Sponsor & Associate Professor of History

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A MiddLab Project

Trends and Perceptions in Zoo and Aquarium Field Trips

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This paper reports the results of a survey designed to examine trends in zoo and aquarium field trip attendance, as well as the perceptions and practices of zoo and aquarium educators. The results suggest that field trip attendance is down at most zoos and aquariums over the last five years, but increased during 2009 over 2008 at about half of the institutions reporting data. The results obtained here, combined with those reported in the published literature, suggest that zoo and aquarium educators must continue to provide classroom teachers with professional development opportunities if field trips are to remain an educationally-relevant part of the K-12 experience.

People

Nicholas J. Meiers
Researcher

Number and percent of zoo and aquarium educators mentioning a particular theme for their visit (n=37).

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