Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado

Faculty Sponsor

Melanie Peffer


The purpose of this project is to study differences in male versus female science epistemology as reflected in their practices during authentic science inquiry. Understanding an individual’s science epistemology is important to develop better methods of teaching authentic science inquiry. Science epistemology refers to the beliefs people have about the process of performing scientific inquiry and how scientific information is generated. In particular, students may believe science is a simple process with definite conclusions previously established by professionals, or that science is a complex field with many unanswered questions which require creative and unconventional processes to expose. Scientific inquiry in traditional K-16 classrooms tends to be simple, allowing students to learn basic scientific ideas but not allowing them to perform the type of research that scientists in the field would actually perform. This may lead students to form inaccurate epistemological beliefs about which practices reflect authentic science inquiry. These epistemological beliefs may be demonstrated through inquiry practices exhibited in environments where students are free to choose their own approach to research, such as that provided by Science Classroom Inquiry (SCI) simulations. Therefore, the differences in inquiry strategies among undergraduate students were analyzed. Since there are gender differences in success in science settings, notably that more men than women work in science careers, we compared inquiry practices between male and female participants. We assessed practices as reflected in the SCI simulation lab notebooks, videos, think-aloud transcripts, and researcher observations. We hypothesized that males would utilize more complex inquiry strategies than females. Our results indicated that male inquiry practices may be more mechanistic and authentic, whereas female inquiry practices may be more systematic. This information could be applied to improving distinct teaching methods.

UNCO Undergraduate Verification