Problem Statement: University students usually lack the skills to rigorously define a multi-dimensional real-life problem and its limitations in an explicit, clear and testable way, which prevents them from forming a reliable method, obtaining relevant results and making balanced judgments to solve a problem.
Purpose of the Study: The study examines the processes undergone by students in two projects and the results of these projects. One of the projects was on the subject of heat waste in the buildings of a university’s school of education. The other project was a new version of that project conducted by a group of students in the following year.
Method: The study was conducted with eight pre-service science teachers who were third-year students in the Science Teaching and Laboratory Practices course at a state university’s education school located in Turkey’s Marmara Region. Case study, a qualitative research method, is used to obtain detailed and in-depth information. The research data for this report were obtained from the students’ project posters, interviews with the instructor and semi-structured interview records of interviews with the students.
Findings: In the first project, pre-service teachers had serious difficulty identifying a testable research problem they encountered every day as well as developing a method to solve such a problem. Therefore, the
collected data could not be analyzed because of the complexity of the data, the failure to adjust the plan to reality and the abundance of variables. Pre-service teachers in the second project began by determining an explicit, clear and testable research problem, including dependent and independent variables, regarding the waste of heat in university buildings. Two factors were very influential for this project’s success. First, re-evaluating a previous research problem was more advantageous than determining a research problem from scratch, which can be explained by the fact that science is a process that progresses cyclically and cumulatively. Second, there was more intense dialogue and cooperation between the instructor and the students in the second project than in the first project.
Conclusion and Recommendations: The present study revealed that when linear scientific research project practices are replaced with cyclical scientific research processes, new and more advanced projects with a wider sphere of influence can be achieved. Providing pre-service teachers with scientific research opportunities is a way to help spread the attitudes and skills needed for research, development and innovative thinking more widely throughout society.
Keywords: Scientific research, project-based learning, research and development, innovation, teacher training