Author: Tim Burgess, Ph.D.
McGill-Toolen Catholic High School
June 11, 2013
In the period from 2008-2012 McGill-Toolen Catholic High School changed from a high school science course sequence of Integrated Science (for freshman), Biology (for sophomores), Chemistry (for juniors) and then Physics (as a senior elective). Model-based inquiry (a system of activity and discourse that engages learners) was limited to a third of the students in the senior class that elected to take Physics prior to the change. The majority of freshman physics classes changed to using model-based inquiry starting in 2008. This research examined the impact of model-based inquiry on reasoning skills as measured by the ACT over a twelve year period prior to the change, during the change and after the change. The new science sequence had a majority of freshman in model-based inquiry physics class followed by Chemistry (sophomore), Biology (junior) and elective science the senior year.
How science is learned appeared to impact ACT scores precisely when the first model-based inquiry freshman cohorts began taking the ACT in every section. The largest increase in ACT section scores in Science was more than seven times the size of the average change in year to year scores. The ACT Math section displayed a significant increase during the transition that were more than three times the average increase. The ACT Composite score increase was four times larger than the average year to year increase in score. Surprisingly a rise in English and Reading scores were also much larger than expected. This may be the result of an emphasis on verbal and written communication communication The observed increase started in 2011 and was maintained in 2012.
Model-based inquiry, as expected, appeared to influence reasoning ability as measured by the Science and Math sections of the ACT three years after students took the class. Surprisingly the verbal and intellectual activity fostered by model-based inquiry may be yielding benefits in every academic area measured by the ACT.
Please note that the views expressed here by me do not represent the views of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, Archdiocese of Mobile or any part of the Universal Catholic Church.