Publication 7265

Appleton K. (1997) Analysis and description of students’ learning during science classes using a constructivist-based model. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 34(3): 303–318.
Constructivist ideas have had a major influence on science educators over the last decade. In this report a model describing possible student responses during science lessons is outlined, and a rationale for it is provided on the basis of both constructivist theory and tests of the model in middle school science classes. The study therefore explores a way to analyze and describe learning derived from both constructivist theoretical considerations and classroom practice. The model was tested in a series of science lessons, resulting in several revisions. The final version explained in this report is therefore consistent with the science lesson contexts explored and the theoretical constructs which underlie it. The lessons were conducted in three classes of 11- to 13-year-olds in provincial cities in Queensland, Australia. Students were mostly of Caucasian extraction, in mixed-ability and mixed-gender classes. Three students from each class were interviewed individually immediately following each of the three lessons, for a total of 27 interviews. The interviews, videotapes of lessons, and field notes were used as data sources. The final version of the model proved to be fairly robust in describing students’ cognitive progress through the lessons. This study has resulted in a model for science lessons which allows the identification and description of students’ cognitive progress through the lessons. By using this focus on the learner, it provides preknowledge for teachers about how students might arrive at solutions to science problems during lessons, and therefore potentially provides indications about appropriate teaching strategies.
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