The current trends in science education emphasize students’ engagement in scientific inquiry and deemphasize memorization of factual knowledge. In response to these trends, reform-based curricula often characterize students engaging in science investigations by listing the detailed steps of scientific practices. Unfortunately, if curricula stress procedures more than conceptual connections, students’ understanding of science may be distorted. To ensure the effectiveness of science education reform, this study was designed to bring attention to the differences between the procedures for carrying out investigations and the conceptual knowledge involved in doing the investigations.
This study explored teachers’ use of a hands-on science curriculum and its impact on student learning using multiple assessments. The relationships between student learning of conceptual or procedural knowledge and teachers’ talk about conceptual or procedural knowledge in their classrooms were investigated. Three teachers and their third-grade students participated in this study during the teaching of the measurement and sound units from a inquiry-based curriculum. One teacher had participated in an enhanced professional development workshop but the other two comparison teachers did not.
The results showed that students from the three classes displayed similar knowledge of measurement procedures but different conceptual understanding of measurement and sound properties. Results from classroom observations indicated that teachers enacted the curriculum differently by either stressing the procedures of the activities or making conceptual connections between the activities and content knowledge. One of the comparison teachers emphasized the step-by-step procedures for using measurement tools, whereas the other two teachers constantly made reference to related measurement concepts or to everyday experiences. The patterns between student learning and teachers’ enactment suggested that higher percentages of conceptual talk in the classroom were associated with better performance on conceptual understanding.
The results of this study are consistent with prior research that showed that the implementation of hands-on science curricula could result in limited instruction in science concepts and reduced conceptual learning by their students. These findings suggest that it is important to help teachers focus on conceptual as well as procedural knowledge when using an inquiry-based curriculum to enhance the quality of science education reform.
|Advisor:||Forman, Ellice A.|
|School:||University of Pittsburgh|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Instructional Design, Science education, Curriculum development|
|Keywords:||Activities-based curriculum, Conceptual and procedural understanding, Hands-on curriculum, Measurement, Professional development, Scientific inquiry, Sound, Student learning outcomes, Teacher enactment|
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