The purpose of this study is to clarify students’ understanding of scientific models. A 20-item pencil-and-paper questionnaire consisting of four constructs was conducted on 227 lower secondary school students and 200 science course college students. The results of this analysis revealed that lower secondary school students indicate lower scores than science course college students in four constructs (explanation/prediction, characterization, limitation, and tentativeness). Lower secondary school students realize that models can represent natural phenomena that are difficult to see directly or simplify complex natural phenomena. Lower secondary school students do not understand that models are useful for explanation/prediction of natural phenomena, and their models are tentative. It is especially difficult to learn the purpose of models; college students’ score on models for explanation/prediction of natural phenomena is also relatively low. Based on the results of this analysis, lower secondary school students need to understand that models are useful for explanation/prediction, through practice using models to explain and predict natural phenomena.
Scientific experiments and observations are important for science classes in elementary schools. However, accidents during science classes are reported every year. In this study, we investigate accidents in science classes in elementary school based on statistics and our research. Our results are as follows: (1) Most accidents happen during the 4th grade topic “Metal, water, air and temperature”, and the 6th grade topics “Mechanism of combustion”, “Properties of aqueous solutions”, and “Nutrition of plants and the pathway of water”. These accidents include fatal accidents. (2) A questionnaire survey of elementary school teachers showed that they thought these topics were related to fatal accidents. (3) According to the statistics on the injuries, the number of scratches or cuts is higher than that of burns. In science lessons, it is considered that the accidents happen during experiments and observations based on the statistics. (4) The incidence rate of accidents per student for one year was higher than probability 10-6 that was ignorant ratio of accidents. The incidence of accidents in elementary school science classes must be reduced. (5) Based on statistics from the last 30 years, more boys than girls were injured in science experiments. The information we have gathered about accidents in elementary school science classes is valuable for the improvement of students’ safety in science education.
The purpose of this research is to clarify how ninth graders in lower secondary schools acquire a spatial understanding of planetary phases and an ability to explain them in a scientific way by asking them to draw planetary phase angles and grasp the positional relationship between the Earth and other planets in the learning of the phases of the Moon and Venus. Subjects in an experimental group were asked to make hypotheses that explain the phases of planets and to verify them after grasping the positional relationship between the Earth and other planets by drawing planetary phase angles. On the other hand, subjects in a control group were asked to do the same thing without drawing them. Then, each group's levels of spatial perception, understanding of planetary phases, and ability to make a scientific explanation of how they occur were examined by conducting a questionnaire survey. The results showed that the level of spatial perception of the phases of the Moon and Venus in the experimental group was statistically significantly higher than in the control group. The number of students who could explain them in a scientific way was also higher in the experimental group than in the control group at a statistically significant level. It is suggested that the attempt to help students grasp the positional relationship between the Earth and other planets by drawing planetary phase angles was effective in enhancing their spatial perception and understanding of the phases of planets, and helped developing their ability to explain it in a scientific way.
The objective of the present study is to focus on the “node compression” method (Saito & Tonishi, 2008) proposed in concept mapping research, and to develop software for creating concept maps that support this method. A node compression function has been newly implemented in Inagaki et al. (2001)’s software “Undo-Kun.” We carried out a practical evaluation of the software for use in science classes. In the practical evaluation, we examined the classes that used the newly developed concept mapping software with the node compression function in comparison with a control group of classes that used paper-based concept maps. The results showed the concept mapping software with the node compression function improved the user-friendliness of node compression and encouraged the activation of learners’ metacognition, and also, deepened the understanding of the learning activity “node compression”, in comparison with paper-based concept mapping.
Conceptual exchange semantically implies abandoning the old theory and accepting the new theory; however, the abandonment of the old theory is not forgotten. In other words, there is a replacement of the order of the beliefs about the theories (i.e. commitment toward these theories) through conceptual change (Strike and Posner, 1994). As understanding is a commitment to a theory, understanding is also confidence and/or belief in said concepts. The structure of conceptual exchange consists of two stages, i.e. switching of theories and an increase in the commitment toward a new theory (Tonishi and Kubota, 2004). In this study, a detailed process of conceptual exchange was studied using the fortune lines method (White and Gunstone, 1992). The teaching content is based on the “balance of a rigid body” in a high school physics class, and the task used is about the moment of the force. From the results, we could clarify that the process of conceptual exchange is quite variable; however, there is a common pattern, such as the decrease in commitment toward one’s own theory before the switching to a new theory, followed by an increase in commitment toward the new theory. The first stage of conceptual exchange is switching theories with the decrease in commitment toward one’s own theory, and the second stage is the increase in commitment toward the new theory. These stages are independent of each other. Because the switching of theories needs competition or conflict between theories as a precondition, it arises during the interactive social process among students and/or between students and the teacher. Only the commitment toward the theory changes with evidence. The commitment increases when the result of experiment is considered concordant with the prediction from the theory; otherwise the commitment would decrease. The experiments do not create or change the theories, but they do change the commitment. These views strongly support the results of the practical study on conceptual exchange in junior high school by Tonishi and Kubota (2004).
Toulmin (1958) proposed that arguments are constructs of proof. Recently, arguments formed from “claims” and “evidence,” as well as the “reasoning” that ties them together, have been introduced into science education as a practical application of Toulmin’s Argument Pattern. Although it is important for the teachers who instruct students to construct arguments, in-service teachers’ argument skills on scientific content have yet to be demonstrated. The purposes of this study are to investigate in-service teachers’ abilities to construct arguments in the sciences and to compare them with the results of the children. A survey of 76 in-service teachers in elementary, lower secondary, and upper secondary schools was conducted following Sakamoto et al. (2012). We converted arguments about circuits and the brightness of miniature light bulbs into points. We found that many points were achieved when making claims, and when questions were answered accurately. However, regarding furnishing evidence and reasoning, the responses were insufficient. In particular, the teachers were found to have the same issues as elementary school children in giving sufficient evidence without omission, and in their use of scientific principles for reasoning. In addition, in-service teachers’ argument skills were deemed insufficient, regardless of type of school, gender, whether they held a lower secondary school or upper secondary school science certificate, number of years of work experience, mode of instruction in the classes taught, or specialization. Our future tasks are to look more deeply into the trend revealed in this study by sampling more data, and to develop a program that improves in-service teachers’ argument skills.
In recent years, DNA extraction experiments have come to be carried out frequently in biology classes at upper secondary schools. However, it is said that in the way the experiments are currently carried out, some students cannot verify that an extract is DNA (or include DNA). Therefore, it is necessary to introduce a process to check that an extract is DNA by using a reagent. In this study, we introduced an inspection process with the control experiment into the operation process of the conventional DNA extraction experiment and investigated whether the introduction of the inspection process was connected to improved understanding that the extract was DNA. As a result of the survey, about 1/3 of the students were not able to understand that an extract was DNA before the inspection. However, after the inspection, all the students became convinced that an extract was DNA. From this result, the importance of the detection using the reagent in the DNA extraction experiment has become clear. This research has shows that the use of the inspection process with the control experiment will help students verify and understand.
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