Guided inquiry learning: how much support is most effective for children’s learning?

Kopitzki, E. (2011) Guided inquiry learning: how much support is most effective for children’s learning?

Abstract:When asked to predict whether an object will sink or float primary school students often focus on volume or mass but not on the relation between the two. In a typical learning environment for floating and sinking students are asked to emerge different objects in water. Unfortunately, students often continue to explain their experiences in these learning environments in line with their initial conceptions. In the present study we evaluated the effect of support aimed at students’ structuring of experimental data and reflection on the experimental outcomes in a hands-on inquiry learning setting. Sixty-four German fourth grade students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions which varied in the amount of support aimed at assisting students’ structuring of experimental data and reflection on experimental outcomes. During the learning session students from the control group were allowed to randomly choose one of 8 solid, black blocks of different densities (5 less dense than water and 3 denser than water), put them into a water basin and note their observations on a given predict-observe worksheet. Students in the first experimental group emerged the blocks into the water in an anticipated order (e.g. same mass, but different volume or same volume and different mass consecutively). The prescribed order allowed students to make valuable comparisons between two blocks. Additionally students in the first experimental group had to complete an extra explain column on their predict-observe-(explain) worksheet. The second experimental group received additional explicit prompts to compare interesting block pairs and prompts for incongruent explanations. The prompts were provided by the experiment leader based on a script. All students completed a pre- and post-test and the four weeks retention-test. Results indicate that students in all conditions benefit from the inquiry learning setting. The two experimental groups outperformed students in the control condition group on the essay question. It can be concluded that students benefit of support in form of structure and prompts during inquiry learning, but that the question style (open or multiple choice questions) to test these concepts is crucial. It appears that, in line with former research, pre- and more scientifically sounded concepts remain side-by-side, and when forced to choose one explanation students may prefer the stick to their initial (naïve) conceptions.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
Link to this item:
Export this item as:BibTeX
HTML Citation
Reference Manager


Repository Staff Only: item control page