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The Impact of a Problem-based Learning Launcher Unit on Eighth Grade Students’ Motivation and Interest in Science

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Middle School Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1306.1 - 25.1306.9

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Paper Authors


Cher C. Hendricks Georgia Institute of Technology

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Cher Hendricks is a Research Scientist II at Georgia Institute of Technology. The focus of her work is on K-12 STEM programs. Prior to her work at Georgia Tech, she was an Associate Professor of educational research at the University of West Georgia (1998-2010) and a special education teacher. In addition to her STEM research, Hendricks is author of the textbook Improving Schools through Action Research: A Reflective Practice Approach. The third edition was released in February.

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Barbara Burks Fasse Ph.D. Georgia Institute of Technology

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Barbara Burks Fasse is a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech. Fasse studies the efficacy and value of student-centered learning initiatives, specifically problem-based and project-based learning, in classrooms, instructional labs, and undergraduate research experiences. She joined the BME faculty in 2007, following 10 years in Georgia Tech's College of Computing where she was a member of the NSF-funded Learning By Design problem-based learning curriculum development and research project. She also conducted an NSF-funded ethnographic study of learning in a problem-driven, project-based bio-robotics research lab at Georgia Tech. In addition to her duties in BME, she is a member of the interdisciplinary research team conducting the Science Learning: Integrating Design, Engineering, and Robotics (SLIDER) project.

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The Impact of a Problem-Based Learning Launcher Unit on Eighth Grade Students’ Motivation and Interest in ScienceAxxxx Bxxxx: Cxxxx Dxxxx, Exxxx, and Fxxxx (ABCDEF) is a five year NSF-funded researchproject that involves collaboration between K-12 educators, university faculty, and educationaloutreach specialists. The project’s objective is to design and implement a Problem-basedLearning (PBL) curriculum using engineering design and LEGO robotics as the context forteaching eighth grade physical science content and process skills while encouraging criticalthinking. In addition to studying the curriculum’s impact on student learning, we are alsoexamining its impact on student motivation and interest in science. In this second year of ourproject, participating teachers at one of our school sites are implementing a 4-week LauncherUnit that focuses on engaging students in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Our purposeis to examine ways in which student motivation and interest in science are affected by engagingwith the ABCDEF PBL curriculum.This research report utilizes a pretest-posttest design using subjects as their own controls inwhich all participating students (n=350) complete 3 short questionnaires (Likert and open-endeditems) at the beginning of the curriculum intervention and after the completion of theintervention. The questionnaires measure students’ (1) science self-efficacy, (2) interest inscience activities outside of school, (3) attitude toward science in society, (4) science anxiety,and (5) attitude toward science class. These instruments were created using existing scales (IsScience Me and the Modified Attitudes toward Science Inventory) and were pilot tested last yearwith 611 students in order to validate them via confirmatory factor analysis. The final factorsevaluated on the questionnaires had reliability coefficients ranging from .80 to .92. Using ourvalidated, reliable measures, we intend to report pre-post differences in student motivation andinterest in science when instructed using the ABCDEF PBL Launcher Unit curriculum.

Hendricks, C. C., & Fasse, B. B. (2012, June), The Impact of a Problem-based Learning Launcher Unit on Eighth Grade Students’ Motivation and Interest in Science Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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