Why Is SAVE Science Needed?

The need for the research being conducted by SAVE Science can be demonstrated in a series of statistics that reflect the greater challenges facing science education the United States: One-third of all high school students only take a single year of science; 82 percent of high school seniors fail to reach science proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test (NAEP); 40 percent of all science doctorates granted in the United States now go to people from other countries.

More significantly, NAEP researchers found that while 82 percent of fourth graders agreed with the statement that "all can do well in science if they try," that percentage dropped to 64 percent by eighth grade and to a mere 44 percent by 12th grade. Research has shown that the effect of this diminishing self-confidence (or self-efficacy) directly correlates to fewer students choosing science as a career, which over time will further diminish scientific proficiency and achievement of the nation as a whole.

A growing body of evidence indicates that students who learn science concepts and processes through programs of scientific inquiry retain what they learn more effectively than those learning through traditional teaching approaches. And in recent years, the scientific inquiry approach has been made even more immersive through the use of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) that re-create the environment of science labs or real-world scientific challenges through computer technology.

The SAVE Science project is advancing understanding of the use of MUVEs in science education by developing assessments that use the MUVE model to gauge student comprehension, retention and mastery of scientific inquiry. It also is identifying obstacles to success in the use of MUVEs and addressing the challenges of achieving teacher training and acceptance.