Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

Kristy L. Daniel

Committee Chair Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 2

Brian R. Kreiser

Committee Member 2 Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 3

Yen M. To

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Brian T. Gearity

Committee Member 5

Kari L. Clase


Emphasis on professional practices to develop students’ professionalism is currently a major focus of higher education. Studies have shown the benefits of reflexive practices in classroom to facilitate the development of students’ professional attitude or identity in some fields. Reflexive practices involve students in self-reflection where he/she reflects on his/her own actions. Little investigation about the benefits of reflexive practices in the development of students’ scientific identity in a science class led to my investigation. Development of a scientific identity of students and their overall interest and motivation in science is deemed essential for retaining students in STEM fields.

My dissertation is a mixed-methods study investigating the impact of reflexive practices on college students’ development of scientific identity, interest and motivation in a science laboratory course. The concept of reflexivity facilitating the development of students’ professional identity guides my study. Engaging students in reflexive practices in an authentic course leads to the development of students’ reflexivity which is composed of three components namely awareness of oneself, inquiry attitude, and collaborative attitude. For my investigation, I collected data from students in three different institutions enrolled in courses each featuring a different learning environment which are authentic environment with reflexive practices (n=46), authentic environment without reflexive practices (n=23), and traditional environment with reflexive practices (n=17). Students in the reflexive setting were asked to respond to weekly reflection prompts throughout the semester. I collected data from multiple sources which included a pre/post interest and motivation questionnaire, a self-awareness questionnaire, students’ responses to reflection prompts, teaching assistants’ observations, students peer evaluations, and student interviews.

I found that although authentic learning environment is crucial for the development of students’ scientific identity, interest, and motivation, reflexive practices in an authentic setting further augments these developments by enhancing students’ reflexivity. Students’ awareness about themselves, inquiry attitude, and collaborative attitude influenced one or more of the above mentioned students’ outcomes. Most of the students in the authentic-reflexive course perceived reflections to be useful in several ways such as development of their awareness, thinking ability and communication skills which further emphasizes the benefits of reflexive practices.