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Promoting pre-experimental activities in high-school chemistry: focusing on the role of students' epistemic questions

[journal article]

Neber, Heinz

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Abstract In high-school chemistry the pre-experimental phase of inquiry cycles often remains neglected. According to a procedural model, which is described in the text, this phase begins with an observation which stimulates students’ prior factual knowledge, the formulation of a research question for further elaboration (epistemic questions), the anticipation of a hypothetical answer, and the planning of experimental steps for deciding on the hypothetical answer. These activities were explicitely prescribed in an experimental group of 28 tenth-graders. Raising the quality of students’ epistemic research questions by providing structured help was a special focus of the intervention. Hypothesized motivational and cognitive effects were measured and compared to a group of 25 students (control group) who engaged in non-structured pre-experimental activities. The intervention provided to the experimental group resulted in stronger preferences for a more open and non-recipe type of experimentation, in more intense cognitive activities (thoughts) and, most importantly, in increased skills for formulating causal epistemic questions. Supporting such procedural skills in classrooms may contribute to transforming labwork into intentional activities and students into active learners by helping them focus on further elaborating their knowledge.
Classification Curriculum, Teaching, Didactics
Free Keywords chemistry education; questioning; laboratory work; quantitative research; experimental study
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 1801-1821
Journal International Journal of Science Education, 30 (2008) 13
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)