EXPLORATION OF PURDUE EXTENSION MASTER GARDENER VOLUNTEERS’ SCIENTIFIC THINKING AFTER PARTICIPATING IN AN INQUIRY-BASED HOME HYDROPONICS PROJECT
The effects of science have remarkably changed our world and we should learn how to live effectively in a consistently evolving world. Scientific thinking is believed to be the key factor in developing the ability to use scientific knowledge in problem-solving (Norris & Philips, 2003; Zimmerman, 2000). Therefore, increasing adults’ ability to think scientifically would help them apply better problem-solving strategies in everyday routines. Unfortunately, not a lot has been done on advancing scientific thinking education among adults in formal and nonformal educational settings in the U.S. (Osborn, 2013). Hence, this study used case study approach, a qualitative research method, to explore Purdue Extension Master Gardener volunteers’ scientific thinking in the context of problem-solving through inquiry. The purpose of this study was to explore Purdue Extension Master Gardener volunteers’ scientific thinking throughout a home hydroponics inquiry-based project and to describe their experiences to complete the learning module. This study took over nine weeks of a virtual inquiry-based learning program with four Purdue Extension Master Gardener volunteers. Data collection included pre- and post-interview, project worksheets and exit notecards at the end of each online lesson.
There were three major findings. First, participants demonstrated scientific thinking skills by conducting experiments and acknowledging the effectiveness of scientific inquiry in problem-solving. Second, participants’ learning experiences were positive following the integration of adult learning theory assumptions into the learning module. Third, participants expressed intent to continue using scientific experiments to solve their gardening problems as a new skill they learned and found effective in helping them understand and solve problems. The findings of this study suggest that both domain-specific (prior knowledge and everyday life experience) and domain-general (scientific methods and reasoning processes) strategies are important to conduct scientific reasoning. In addition, motivation is a critical factor that drives the direction of inquiry, hypothesis, and helps in persisting to finish up the experiments. The findings also suggested that adults learn best when they have independence and self-direction in working on topics that align with the real-world problem-solving directly linked to their everyday life.
The findings of this study suggest that developing scientific thinking increases the ability of adults to appreciate valuable information, evaluate data source, and increase informed citizenry in general. Also, for teaching adults, instructors and instructional designers should concentrate on topics that have direct impact on adults’ life, mainly focusing on real-world problem-solving. Future studies could consider exploring scientific thinking using a different context than problem-solving used in this study. Future studies also should consider using larger populations with a variety of backgrounds to assess the role of prior knowledge in scientific thinking development.
- Master of Science
- Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication
- West Lafayette