Research in Science Education

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 505–523 | Cite as

A New Two-Step Approach for Hands-On Teaching of Gene Technology: Effects on Students’ Activities During Experimentation in an Outreach Gene Technology Lab

  • Franz-Josef Scharfenberg
  • Franz X. Bogner


Emphasis on improving higher level biology education continues. A new two-step approach to the experimental phases within an outreach gene technology lab, derived from cognitive load theory, is presented. We compared our approach using a quasi-experimental design with the conventional one-step mode. The difference consisted of additional focused discussions combined with students writing down their ideas (step one) prior to starting any experimental procedure (step two). We monitored students’ activities during the experimental phases by continuously videotaping 20 work groups within each approach (N = 131). Subsequent classification of students’ activities yielded 10 categories (with well-fitting intra- and inter-observer scores with respect to reliability). Based on the students’ individual time budgets, we evaluated students’ roles during experimentation from their prevalent activities (by independently using two cluster analysis methods). Independently of the approach, two common clusters emerged, which we labeled as ‘all-rounders’ and as ‘passive students’, and two clusters specific to each approach: ‘observers’ as well as ‘high-experimenters’ were identified only within the one-step approach whereas under the two-step conditions ‘managers’ and ‘scribes’ were identified. Potential changes in group-leadership style during experimentation are discussed, and conclusions for optimizing science teaching are drawn.


Biology education Hands-on experiments Outreach learning Science education Students’ roles Video analysis Cooperative learning 



We are grateful for the cooperation of teachers and students involved in this study. We appreciate the helpful and valuable discussion of the manuscript with M. Wiseman as well as the helpful comments of four anonymous reviewers. The study was funded by Bavarian State Ministries (of Environment, Public Health, & Consumer Protection, and of Education), and German National Science Foundation (DFG BO 944/4-2).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Math & Science Education, Institute of Biology DidacticsUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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