Exploring the Development of Fifth Graders’ Practical Epistemologies and Explanation Skills in Inquiry-Based Learning Classrooms
The purposes of this study are to explore fifth graders’ epistemological views regarding their own experiences of constructing scientific knowledge through inquiry activities (i.e., practical epistemologies) and to investigate possible interactions between students’ practical epistemologies and their inquiry skills to construct scientific explanations (i.e., explanation skills). Quantitative and qualitative data including interview transcripts, classroom video recordings, and pre- and post-tests of explanation skills were collected from 68 fifth graders in two science classes. Analyses of data show that after engaging in 5-week inquiry activities, students developed better inquiry skills to construct scientific explanations. More students realized the existence of experimental errors, viewed experimental data as evidence to support their claims, and had richer understanding about the nature of scientific questions. However, most students’ epistemological beliefs were still naïve (the beginning level); they could not differentiate between experimental results and scientific knowledge and believed that the purpose of science is doing experiments or research. The results also show that students who held a more sophisticated epistemology (the intermediate level) tended to develop better inquiry skills than those with naïve beliefs. Analyses of classroom observations suggest possible explanations for how students reflected their epistemological views in their inquiry practices.
KeywordsEpistemology Explanation skill Inquiry
- Abd-El-Khalick, F., Boujaoude, S., Duschl, R., Lederman, N. G., Mamlok-Naaman, R., Hofstein, A., et al. (2004). Inquiry in science education: international perspectives. Science Education, 88, 394–419.Google Scholar
- American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Erickson, F. (1998). Qualitative research methods for science education. In B. J. Fraser & K. G. Tobin (Eds.), International handbook of science education (pp. 1155–1173). Great Britain: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
- International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. (2003). TIMSS special initiative in problem solving and inquiry. Retrieved August 14, 2007, from http://timss.bc.edu/timss2003i/psi.html.
- Ministry of Education. (1999). Curriculum outlines for nature science and living technology. Taipei: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
- National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
- National Research Council. (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards: A guide for teaching and learning. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
- Songer, N. B., & Gotwals, A. (2004). What constitutes evidence of complex reasoning in science? Paper presented at the The Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Wu, H.-K., & Hsieh, C.-E. (2006). Developing sixth graders’ inquiry skills to construct scientific explanations in inquiry-based learning environments. International Journal of Science Education, 28(11), 1289–1313.Google Scholar