Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James H. Wandersee


This exploratory study examined three instructional strategies used with female high school biology students. The relative contributions of the strategies to student understanding of microbiology and motivation in science were analyzed. The science education community targeted underachievement in science by implementing changes in content and practices (NRC, 1996). Research suggested that teachers facilitate learnirig environments based on human constructivism (Mintzes, Wandersee, & Novak, 1997) that is rooted in meaningful learning theory (Ausubel, Novak & Hanesian, 1978). Teachers were advised to use both visual and verbal instructional strategies (Paivio, 1983) and encourage students to construct understandings by connecting new experiences to prior knowledge. The American Society for Microbiology supports the study of microorganisms because of their prominence in the biosphere (ASK 1997). In this study, two participating teachers taught selected microbiology concepts while focused on the cutting edge science of biofilms. Biology students accessed digitized biofilm images on an ASM web page and adapted them into products, communicated with biofilm researchers, and adapted a professional-quality instructional video for cross-age teaching. The study revealed improvements in understanding as evidenced on a written test; however, differences in learnirig outcomes were not significant. Other data, including student journal reflections, observations of student interactions, and student clinical interviews indicate that students were engaged in cutting edge science and adapted biofilm images in ways that increased understanding of microbiology (with respect to both science content and as a way of knowing) and motivation. An ASM CD-ROM of the images did not effectively enhance learning and this study provides insights into what could make it more successful. It also identifies why, in most cases, students' E-mail communication with biofilm researchers was unsuccessful. The positive experiences of successful students indicate that teacher management could maximize the benefits of experiencing cutting edge science this way. Cutting edge science can be used to make science more relevant to students, enhance science learning, and insure a more scientifically literate society. Cross-age teachers effectively adapted an instructional video, communicated science, and increased their understanding of selected microbiology concepts and self-confidence. They also increased or maintained their motivation to study science.