Researchers outline ways to advance scientific thinking in children

August 18, 2011, Carnegie Mellon University

Science educators aim to nurture, enrich and sustain children's natural and spontaneous interest in scientific knowledge using many different approaches. In a new paper published in "Science," Carnegie Mellon University's David Klahr and Jamie Jirout and Illinois State University's Corinne Zimmerman use psychology research to outline ways to advance the science of science instruction.

"Instead of looking at this issue from a education perspective, we looked at it from a cognitive and perspective," said Klahr, the Walter van Dyke Bingham Professor of and Education Sciences at CMU. "And from our point of view, it's clear that you can't understand how to teach unless you understand how children learn."

For the paper, Klahr and his colleagues reviewed literature on the early development of scientific thinking and then focused on recent research on how to best teach science to children from preschool to middle school. They characterized scientific thinking in terms of two features: content, which includes an array of domain-specific topics such as feedback; and processes, including formulation of hypotheses and designing experiments.

"When you're looking at how children should be taught, the instructional methods should be consistent with their ," Klahr said. "Children can get lost with too much open-ended instruction with too little structure. On the other hand, too much structure can get boring. There needs to be a between both."

Another problem Klahr and his team identified was in the way science educators classify their classroom instruction using global terms that are not clearly defined and therefore not uniformly used. The research team introduced a method for clearly describing the type of instruction used that covers aspect, materials, goal setting, physical manipulation of materials by child, design of each experiment, probe questions, explanations, summary, execution of experiments and observation of outcomes.

"Instruction labels don't matter — it's what actually happened in the classroom that matters," Klahr said. "Using clear descriptive explanations of what happens in the classroom are the only way to make advances in science education."

The team also advocates for increased use of intelligent tutors in science education. An example given is TED, which has successfully helped children learn how to design experiments. The tutor looks at mistakes that are made and asks questions to train the on how to create a solid experiment.

Explore further: Study: U.S. high school science labs poor

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5 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2011
No, no no. That can't be what we need.

We need more football and sports entertainment and "wrastling", 'cause those choreographed fake take-downs and submissions are just so entertaining and educational.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2011
no what we need is a way for those interested to do something with the ideas they have and so on... what good is always hammering away that you want more X, when there is not much doing with what they produce.

if something happens to the ideas that they produce, they will come... just as the people line up around the block to get a chance at American idol (say what you may about its value or not), because at its core, its a chance to do something with what you have.

the system couldnt handle an increase of them, and those that wanted to be a part, and there wasnt room for, tended to go someplace else, and would contribute from a autodidactic means. but how? easier to sell a combination nuclear powered potato peeler that's green, than have someone understand the solution to a problem that we want but dont have (but for that presentation).

how many out of work researchers, and other applied sciences people that think up solutions?

how many have?
not rated yet Aug 18, 2011
"And from our point of view, it's clear that you can't understand how to teach unless you understand how children learn." - Carnegie Mellon University's David Klahr and Jamie Jirout and Illinois State University's Corinne Zimmerman

lol. Well, I insisted that my children never forget their first learning experience and how the experience occurred.
Of course, they forgot. And accused me of not being able to remember how and why I took my first breath of birth.
How can I forget the single, most important learning experience one will ever experience?, they ask.
There is always a chance I will remember learning again.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 18, 2011
Need more passionate teachers. That was the only thing that kept my interest in a subject growing up, a good teacher.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 18, 2011
Whatever the methods being used to teach science up to K12 - they are totally inadequate - in spite of the constant flow of education theory (often contradictory) teachers are bombarded with. In the state college I'm associated with in FL (ranked #2 in the nation) the students we get from the high school systems that precede us - are clueless as to what constitutes the scientific method. We are now required to provide remedial scientific method content in all science courses at all levels. Why students aren't taught and required to master and actually employ the scientific method before junior high is a mystery to our faculty.

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