The Logic of the Scientific Method in the Fourth Grade

  • Lorch, Elizabeth (PI)
  • Calderhead, William (CoI)
  • Lorch, Robert (CoI)
  • Osborn, Jeffrey (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Abstract 1. Teaching the Logic of the Scientific Method in the 4th Grade 2. Development of an instructional program 3. The practical goal of the project is to develop an effective, general intervention for the teaching of the core logic of the scientific method (i e., the "control of variables strategy"). The theoretical goals are to improv our understanding of the contributions to science learning of: (1) direct instruction vs. discovery learning, and (2) constraints on the learning situation. 4. All research will take place in 4th grade classrooms in ten public elementary schools in an urban school district in Kentucky. 5. All of the students will be enrolled in fourth-grade. The schools inv lved in the project will represent high-achieving and low-achieving schools with respect to science. The high- vs. low-achieving distinction serves as a roxy for a host of factors. Compared to the low-achieving schools, the high achieving schools tend to be high in achievement in all areas of instru tion. Further, students from the high-achieving schools are relatively high SES indicators and are relatively homogeneous with respect to race and et icity (i.e., predominantly Caucasian). In contrast, students from low-achie'ng schools are relatively low in SES and are racially and ethnically dive se (i.e., higher percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics). Thus, the interventions studied in the proposed research will be tested in diver e educational settings. 6. The initial intervention is based directly on research conducted b Toth, Klahr and Chen (2000). It is designed to teach the control of variables strategy (i.e., manipulate independent variables while holding other variab es constant) via a combination of direct instruction and hands-on experimentation in small groups. The proposed research will combine dire t instruction and hands-on experimentation, and will sequence constraints 0 the learning environment to produce an effective instructional interventio . The ultimate goal is to design an instructional program that requires three, SO-minute class periods. 7. The three experiments will all include observation and testing of stude in classrooms that do not receive an intervention. This is primarily for purposes of baseline comparisons. Comparisons of interventions in each experiment will be equated on all factors except those of theoretical inter st. 8. The study in each year of the proposal an experimental design. 9. In each study, there are four different measures of performance. The important set of measures consists of paper-and-pencil objective tests (binary and multiple choice) of individual student understanding of the control of variables strategy (CVS). The second measure consists of an evaluation of whether small groups of students can design unconfounde experiments in a constrained context. The third measure is an assessmen of individual students' science fair projects with respect to their incorporati n of the principles of CVS. The fourth measure is a count of correctly answered questions (relevant to CVS understanding) from an end-of-ye , State-mandated standardized test of achievement in science. 10. The analyses in each year will consist of separate analyses of varian on each of the four types of performance measures. In addition, analyses w 11be supplemented by planned contrasts designed to address the specific rese rch questions posed in the proposal.
Effective start/end date7/1/066/30/10


  • Department of Education: $1,140,201.00


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