A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry

A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry

Kristine Elliott (The University of Melbourne, Australia), Kevin Sweeney (The University of Melbourne, Australia) and Helen Irving (Monash University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch032
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This chapter reports the authors’ experiences of developing a learning design to teach scientific inquiry, of integrating the learning design with learning objects to create online inquiry projects, and of investigating student attitudes following implementation in second year biochemistry units at a major Australian university. We discuss constructivism, problem based learning (PBL), and inquiry learning as the philosophical and pedagogical approaches informing the learning design, and highlight how critical components of each approach were transformed into a learning design. We specify the learning design and highlight its important features. The claimed efficiencies of the learning object approach were evaluated during the development phase. Outcomes reported here indicate that reuse was most cost effective if many, elaborate learning objects were reused. Little benefit was gained by the reuse of many, simple learning objects. Finally, student perceptions indicate benefits from the inquiry projects that warrant their inclusion in a traditional teacher-centred course.
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The learning of science is not only about the acquisition of knowledge regarding scientific principles, theories, and concepts, but constitutes an understanding and appreciation of the scientific method of inquiry—how science is accomplished. The laboratory has traditionally been the primary domain for teaching methods of science. In the 1970s, the promotion of scientific thinking and the scientific method was considered to be one of the five major goals of laboratory teaching (Shulman & Tamir, 1973). Hofstein and Lunetta (2003) have since pointed out that the “uniqueness of the laboratory lies principally in providing students with the opportunities to engage in processes of investigation and inquiry” (p. 203).

However, with regard to teaching scientific inquiry, it is still not clear precisely what features of laboratory learning promote student understanding of these processes or, more importantly, whether understanding actually improves following laboratory experiences. In the past, research studies that compared the effects of practical work in the laboratory with other teaching approaches such as discussion groups, demonstration groups, computer simulations, and filmed chemistry experiments found no significant differences in student achievement, attitude, critical thinking, and in knowledge of the processes of science (see review by Hofstein & Lunetta, 1982). Significant improvements, however, were found in the development of laboratory manipulative skills.

Hofstein and Lunetta (1982) are critical of prior studies for poor control of variables, small group size, limited validity of the instruments chosen to measure effect, failure to consider teaching behaviour, and low quality of laboratory manuals. Nevertheless, when viewed with caution, the studies point to the fact that the major strength of laboratory work may lie in the teaching of technical skills (e.g., handling and operating equipment) and practical abilities (e.g., report writing), rather than achieving more abstract learning objectives such as the conceptual understanding of scientific inquiry processes.

The personal experience of one of the authors, who has taught science to tertiary students for over 15 years, tells a similar story. Despite regular sessions in the laboratory, students find it difficult to grasp the notion of a process that guides the progression of scientific inquiry, and which may include: making observations, defining research questions, gathering information, forming hypotheses, performing experiments, collecting, analysing, and interpreting data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results. With little or no understanding of this iterative process, students have difficulty recognising which stage of the process they are undertaking or identifying the next step in the investigation. Therefore they rely heavily on direction from educators or written laboratory manuals.

Along with an understanding of science facts and an understanding of the scientific method of inquiry, a third goal of learning science is the development of intellectual skills necessary to perform competent investigations. Also referred to as “problem solving skills,” “science process skills,” “scientific thinking,” the rationale behind developing these skills is to provide training for would-be scientists (Zachos, Hick, Doane, & Sargent, 2000). In terms of the learner, the distinction between the latter two goals of science education is, in the first case, knowing the sequence of steps to take to perform an investigation, and second, having the cognitive skills to perform them.

Within the context of his work on technological advances in inquiry learning, de Jong (2006) noted that, “[s]tudies of young students’ knowledge and skills indicate that many students in large parts of the world are not optimally prepared for the requirements of society and the work place” (p. 532). In Australia, this concern has been expressed about science students at tertiary level, “few students appear to have developed expert problem solving skills that enable them to cope effectively with learning independently and effectively in the sciences” (Hollingworth & McLouglin, 2001, p. 32). The concern that many tertiary-level science students lack the higher order thinking skills (e.g., problem solving) to enable them to carry out competent investigations, is reiterated by the authors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Break-Even Analysis: The point or state at which profits are equal to costs.

Pedagogical Approach: The broad principles and methods of education used in teaching practice. Goodyear (2005) suggests that pedagogical approach can be subdivided into Pedagogical Philosophy (to describe beliefs about how people learn) and High Level Pedagogy (to describe a broad approach between philosophy and action).

Tasks: Here we follow the approach by Goodyear (2005) and use task to describe a specification for learner activity. Activity is what students actually do.

Pedagogical Strategies: The actions and intentions of a pedagogical approach described at a level that hides confusing detail. Tactics describe detailed methods by which the strategy is effected.

Learning Object: Any digital entity that can be reused as a resource for teaching and learning. Simple learning objects may include images or “chunks” of text, whereas elaborate learning objects may include examples such as a stand alone, online tutorial containing content and questions, or a digital video demonstrating the use of a piece of scientific equipment.

Reuse: The use of a pre-existing learning object created for a particular educational context in a new educational context.

Learning Design: A specification of the critical components of a general pedagogical approach. Critical components include pedagogical strategies, tasks students are required to perform, resources and supports to help students complete tasks, and expected cognitive outcomes for students. The learning design also describes the sequence of events and specifies at what stage particular resources and supports are available. It may also includes a time line.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Tom Carey
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Chapter 1
Shirley Agostinho
The term “learning design” is gaining momentum in the e-learning literature as a concept for supporting academics to model and share teaching... Sample PDF
Learning Design Representations to Document, Model, and Share Teaching Practice
Chapter 2
Isobel Falconer, Allison Littlejohn
Practice models are generic approaches to the structuring and orchestration of learning activities for pedagogic purposes, intended to promote... Sample PDF
Representing Models of Practice
Chapter 3
Rob Koper, Yongwu Miao
IMS learning design (IMSLD) is an open standard that can be used to specify a wide range of pedagogical strategies in computer-interpretable models.... Sample PDF
Using the IMS LD Standard to Describe Learning Designs
Chapter 4
David Griffiths, Oleg Liber
The IMS LD specification is internally complex and has been used in a number of different ways. As a result users who have a basic understanding of... Sample PDF
Opportunities, Achievements, and Prospects for Use of IMS LD
Chapter 5
Franca Garzotto, Symeon Retalis
“A design pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that... Sample PDF
A Critical Perspective on Design Patterns for E-Learning
Chapter 6
Sherri S. Frizell, Roland Hübscher
Design patterns have received considerable attention for their potential as a means of capturing and sharing design knowledge. This chapter provides... Sample PDF
Using Design Patterns to Support E-Learning Design
Chapter 7
Peter Goodyear, Dai Fei Yang
This chapter provides an overview of recent research and development (R&D) activity in the area of educational design patterns and pattern... Sample PDF
Patterns and Pattern Languages in Educational Design
Chapter 8
Gráinne Conole
The chapter provides a theoretical framework for understanding learning activities, centering on two key aspects: (1) the capture and representation... Sample PDF
The Role of Mediating Artefacts in Learning Design
Chapter 9
Elizabeth Masterman
This chapter uses activity theory to construct a framework for the design and deployment of pedagogic planning tools. It starts by noting the impact... Sample PDF
Activity Theory and the Design of Pedagogic Planning Tools
Chapter 10
Barry Harper, Ron Oliver
This chapter describes the development of a taxonomy of learning designs based on a survey of 52 innovative ICT-using projects that formed the basis... Sample PDF
Developing a Taxonomy for Learning Designs
Chapter 11
Carmel McNaught, Paul Lam, Kin-Fai Cheng
The chapter will describe an expert review process used at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The mechanism used involves a carefully developed... Sample PDF
Using Expert Reviews to Enhance Learning Designs
Chapter 12
Matthew Kearney, Anne Prescott, Kirsty Young
This chapter reports on findings from a recent project situated in the area of preservice teacher education. The project investigated prospective... Sample PDF
Investigating Prospective Teachers as Learning Design Authors
Chapter 13
Paul Hazlewood, Amanda Oddie, Mark Barrett-Baxendale
IMS Learning Design (IMS LD) is a specification for describing a range of pedagogic approaches. It allows the linking of pedagogical structure... Sample PDF
Using IMS Learning Design in Educational Situations
Chapter 14
Robert McLaughlan, Denise Kirkpatrick
Decision-making processes in relation to complex natural resources require recognition and accommodation of diverse and competing perspectives in a... Sample PDF
Online Role-Based Learning Designs for Teaching Complex Decision Making
Chapter 15
Garry Hoban
Digital animations are complex to create and are usually made by experts for novices to download from Web sites or copy from DVDs and CDs to use as... Sample PDF
Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation
Chapter 16
Yongwu Miao, Daniel Burgos, David Griffiths, Rob Koper
Group interaction has to be meticulously designed to foster effective and efficient collaborative learning. The IMS Learning Design specification... Sample PDF
Representation of Coordination Mechanisms in IMS LD
Chapter 17
Johannes Strobel, Gretchen Lowerison, Roger Côté, Philip C. Abrami, Edward C. Bethel
In this chapter, we describe the process of modeling different theory-, research-, and best-practicebased learning designs into IMS-LD, a... Sample PDF
Modeling Learning Units by Capturing Context with IMS LD
Chapter 18
Daniel Burgos, Hans G.K. Hummel, Colin Tattersall, Francis Brouns, Rob Koper
This chapter presents some design guidelines for collaboration and participation in blended learning networks. As an exemplary network, we describe... Sample PDF
Design Guidelines for Collaboration and Participation with Examples from the LN4LD (Learning Network for Learning Design)
Chapter 19
Tom Boyle
This chapter argues that good design has to be at the heart of developing effective learning objects. It briefly outlines the “knowledge... Sample PDF
The Design of Learning Objects for Pedagogical Impact
Chapter 20
Margaret Turner
This chapter introduces an approach to writing content for online learning over networked media. It argues that few resources currently utilise the... Sample PDF
Visual Meaning Management for Networked Learning
Chapter 21
Christina Gitsaki
Due to the increasingly diverse student population in multicultural nations such as Australia, the U.S., Canada, and the UK, educators are faced... Sample PDF
Modification of Learning Objects for NESB Students
Chapter 22
Daniel Churchill, John Gordon Hedberg
The main idea behind learning objects is that they are to exist as digital resources separated from the learning task in which they are used. This... Sample PDF
Learning Objects, Learning Tasks, and Handhelds
Chapter 23
Peter Freebody, Sandy Muspratt, David McRae
The question addressed in this chapter is: What is the evidence for the effects of online programs of learning objects on motivation and learning?... Sample PDF
Technology, Curriculum, and Pedagogy in the Evaluation of an Online Content Program in Australasia
Chapter 24
David Lake, Kate Lowe, Rob Phillips, Rick Cummings, Renato Schibeci
This chapter provides a model to analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of Learning Objects being used in primary and secondary schools by... Sample PDF
Effective Use of Learning Objects in Class Environments
Chapter 25
Robert McCormick, Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
Most studies on reusable digital learning materials, Learning Objects (LOs), relate to their use in universities. Few empirical studies exist to... Sample PDF
A European Evaluation of the Promises of LOs
Chapter 26
Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
There has been a clear lack of rigorous empirical evidence on the effectiveness of learning objects (LOs) in education. This chapter reports the... Sample PDF
Instructional Effectiveness of Learning Objects
Chapter 27
Robert McCormick
This chapter will examine the approach taken in the evaluation of a large-scale feasibility trial of the production, distribution, and use of... Sample PDF
Evaluating Large-Scale European LO Production, Distribution, and Use
Chapter 28
John C Nesbit, Tracey L. Leacock
The Learning Object Review Instrument (LORI) is an evaluation framework designed to support collaborative critique of multimedia learning resources.... Sample PDF
Collaborative Argumentation in Learning Resource Evaluation
Chapter 29
Philippe Martin, Michel Eboueya
This chapter first argues that current approaches for sharing and retrieving learning objects or any other kinds of information are not efficient or... Sample PDF
For the Ultimate Accessibility and Reusability
Chapter 30
Sue Bennett, Dominique Parrish, Geraldine Lefoe, Meg O’Reilly, Mike Keppell, Robyn Philip
As the notion of learning objects has grown in popularity, so too has interest in how they should be stored to promote access and reusability. A key... Sample PDF
A Needs Analysis Framework for the Design of Digital Repositories in Higher Education
Chapter 31
William Bramble, Mariya Pachman
Reusable learning objects (LOs) constitute a promising approach to the development of easily accessible, technologically sound, and curriculum... Sample PDF
Costs and Sustainability of Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 32
Kristine Elliott, Kevin Sweeney, Helen Irving
This chapter reports the authors’ experiences of developing a learning design to teach scientific inquiry, of integrating the learning design with... Sample PDF
A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry
Chapter 33
Lisa Lobry de Bruyn
This chapter explores through a case study approach of a tertiary-level unit on Land Assessment for Sustainable Use, the connections between three... Sample PDF
Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment
Chapter 34
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This chapter aims to guide the readers through the design and development of a prototype Web-based learning system based on the integration of... Sample PDF
Learning Objects and Generative Learning for Higher Order Thinking
Chapter 35
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The author describes the work of Dr. Mary Budd Rowe and the establishment of an early learning object databases. Extensive training with K-12... Sample PDF
Applying Learning Object Libraries in K-12 Settings
Chapter 36
L. K. Curda, Melissa A. Kelly
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Guidelines for Developing Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 37
Sandra Wills, Anne McDougall
This study tracks the uptake of online role play in Australia from 1990 to 2006 and the affordances to its uptake. It examines reusability, as one... Sample PDF
Reusability of Online Role Play as Learning Objects or Learning Designs
Chapter 38
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An Analysis of Learning Designs that Integrate Patient Cases in Health Professions Education
Chapter 39
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Reconceptualisation of Learning Objects as Meta-Schemas
Chapter 40
Henk Huijser
This chapter provides an in depth discussion of the issues involved in integrating learning design and learning objects into generic Web sites. It... Sample PDF
Designing Learning Objects for Generic Web Sites
Chapter 41
Morag Munro, Claire Kenny
E-learning standards are a contentious topic amongst educators, designers, and researchers engaged in the development of learning objects and... Sample PDF
Standards for Learning Objects and Learning Designs
Chapter 42
Eddy Boot, Luca Botturi, Andrew S. Gibbons, Todd Stubbs
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Supporting Decision Making in Using Design Languages for Learning Designs and Learning Objects
Chapter 43
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Principled Construction and Reuse of Learning Designs
About the Contributors