Date of Award

Fall 12-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Rachel Gisewhite

Committee Chair School

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 2

Dr. Julie Cwikla

Committee Member 2 School

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 3

Dr. Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Julie Pigza

Committee Member 4 School

Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Committee Member 5

Dr. J. Hugh Broome

Committee Member 5 School

Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development


In the ever-changing world, students are challenged with cultivating the skills and knowledge needed to handle the pace and level of understanding required to excel in their future. The foundation for a student's future begins in their formative years, but high school is a prime environment for nurturing the applied, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills needed to move forward into independent, adult life. Mississippi schools are ranked by an accountability score, which is used to determine fund allocation and the development of improvement plans. This score is compiled by looking at various state-tested courses, College and Career Readiness Standards (MS CCRS) scores (including the ACT), and graduation rates. Chemistry is not an accountability subject, but students who take chemistry also take the ACT in the same year. In this case, the ACT serves as a tool for accountability and a tool for predicting college readiness and success (, 2016). Given that the skills needed to succeed in chemistry are also needed to succeed on the ACT, it seems prudent to find ways to help students understand the chemistry content while simultaneously strengthening the skills to do well on the ACT Science sub-test.

To address this, a two-tiered study was conducted over five years to determine if integrating an Inquiry-Based (IBL) method, specifically Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), would benefit student chemistry success and increase scores on the ACT. The first two years looked at the effects of POGIL integration by comparing 3 assessment scores (Pre-test, Post-test, and ACT science sub-test). Years 3-5 sought to establish a difference between teaching methods by comparing the effects of POGIL integration versus non-POGIL integration The POGIL and non-POGIL classes were taught by two different teachers, and the scores were compared through the 3 same assessments (Pre-test, Post-test, and ACT Science sub-test).

The research significantly impacts student ACT Science scores over a five-year period. The two-tiered study indicated that students were better prepared to be successful on the ACT science test. The change came through using critical thinking in the chemistry classroom in controlled environments and helping students build capacity with those skills.