In partnership with the Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, and Institute of Physics

Research findings

What does the research have to say about...

...model-based inquiry and authentic approaches to science inquiry?
  • A definition from Quintana et al. (2004) synthesises how the literature describes scientific inquiry:  ‘the process of posing questions and investigating them with empirical data, either through direct manipulation of variables via experiments or constructing comparisons using existing data sets’ (p. 341).
  • The ‘scientific method’, observed in school investigations, has limited emphasis on explaining trends and patterns using science knowledge; where models/theories are considered, this is as an end product (conclusion) which is not talked about (Windschitl et al., 2008).
  • School science investigations are often simplified to a series of basic steps in order to enhance students’ success, leading to the mechanistic application of rote-learned questions to all investigation contexts (Donnelly et al., 1996).
  • Learning through practical work in an authentic science curriculum requires the acquisition of an acceptable understanding of what a model is and how modelling takes place (Gilbert, 2004).
...the importance of small group discussion?
  • Science should be presented as a process in which knowledge is socially constructed, and where discussion is central to the process (Driver et al., 2000).
  • Science classrooms need to offer opportunities for students to articulate reasons for supporting a particular claim; to attempt to persuade or convince their peers; to express doubts; to ask questions; to relate alternate views; and to point out what is not known. (Driver et al., 2000).
  • Social practices shared by all scientists, including asking questions, developing and using models, analysing and interpreting data and constructing explanations contribute to a better science education which develops and improves student learning and offers a more accurate understanding of the ways in which scientists work (Osborne and Patterson, 2011).
  • Often the collection of data and its presentation dominate practical lessons compared with discussion about the inferences from the experiment. Leach and Scott (2002) suggest that these types of opportunities for internalisation through discussion need to be built into any teaching sequence that involves an empirical inquiry
...'minds on' practical work?
  • Students spend too much time ‘following recipes’ without understanding why they are doing it, and the quality of practical work is very varied (SCORE, 2008).
  • Too much practical work is focussed on doing rather thanthinking and little or no time is set aside for discussion, argument and negotiation of meaning. (Hodson, 1998).
  • Model-based inquiry involves small group activity and discussion which engages students more deeply with the theory involved in practical work (Windschitl et al., 2008).
  • Struggling with a problem before being told the solution may make students more receptive to the explanation of the problem, even if their own interpretations are not accurate (Schwartz and Bransford, 1998).

Page last updated on 02 May 2013