A study of scientific thinking with young adolescents

Serumola, Lekoko Baakanyi (2003) A study of scientific thinking with young adolescents. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2123879


This project looks at the ability of young adolescents at lower secondary level to
recognise experiments as ways of asking questions in scientific investigations. Many
science curricula emphasise the need for pupils to develop skills necessary for
experimenting, like planning and designing experiments for investigations, deciding on
which variables to manipulate during the experiment, recognising a critical piece of
information which could be used to plan and design a critical experiment. A number of
questions based on the available literature and theoretical evidence were raised. These
questions formed the basis for the study:
(1) Do pupils at lower secondary level appreciate the inclusion of experiments in
science learning?
(2) Can these pupils identify a critical piece of information necessary for
providing a credible solution to a problem?
(3) Do lower secondary level pupils have the ability to conceptualise or see
experiments as ways of asking critical questions in scientific investigations?
( 4) Can the development of the experimenting skill in those pupils at lower
secondary level who have not yet developed it be accelerated through
appropriate teaching?
(5) Can lower secondary pupils from completely different teaching and cultural
backgrounds demonstrate similar performances in terms of seeing the
experiment as a way of asking critical questions in scientific investigations?
To answer these questions a three stage investigation was used. Each stage was called an
experiment. For the entire investigation, a total of 1964 pupils were used from Botswana
[junior (lower) secondary schools] and Scotland [lower secondary schools]. A card game
called Eloosis, questionnaires/tests, teaching units and interviews were employed at
different stages of the investigations. The teaching units and Eloosis were used to help
pupils accelerate the development of the ability to recognise critical pieces of information
for critical experiments in scientific investigations where possible. The
questionnaires/tests were designed to examine evidence of the development of this ability
skills. Interviews were meant to solicit more information from pupils regarding the ability
of the pupils to conceptualise the place and nature of experimentation in scientific
enquiry. However, Scotland pupils and one sample of the Botswana pupils did not
participate in the use of teaching units. The data collect from the Scotland pupils was
primarily used to establish the wider acceptance of the results obtained from the
Botswana group.
From the results obtained from this study, it was clear that pupils from different
educational and cultural settings equally appreciated the inclusion of experimental work in
their science activities. However, their perceptions of its place and purpose differed from
those of the curriculum planners. The evidence from the data analysis suggested that the
ability to see experiments as ways of asking questions in scientific investigations is
significantly developmental and cannot be homogeneously accelerated. The result appears
to be true for all pupils at this age range regardless of their educational and cultural
background. There was also a general lack of the ability to identify a critical piece of
information which, in the opinion of this project is related to the ability to recognise
critical experiments for working out solutions to scientific problems. However, it was not
possible to gain much insight into the extent to which the teaching units and Eloosis,
when used over a longer period of time, could impact on the development of the
experimental skills. The reason for this lies within the restrictions on time and the
Willingness of the schools to allow such a prolonged access to their pupils.
It also emerged from the interview results that most pupils, in their responses, confused
experimenting with practical work. This finding explains why a significantly higher
number of the pupils indicated that what they liked most about their science lessons were

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Reid, Dr. Norman
Date of Award: 2003
Depositing User: Mrs Laura Sweeney
Unique ID: glathesis:2003-4230
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 May 2013 11:41
Last Modified: 01 May 2013 11:41
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4230

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