Hands-On Earth Science Activities For Grades K-6 (J-B Ed: Hands On)

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The instructional unit engages the students in a carefully structured sequence of hands-on laboratory investigations interwoven with other forms of instruction Lynch, Researchers at George Washington University, in a partnership with Montgomery County public schools in Maryland, are currently conducting a five-year study of the feasibility of scaling up effective integrated instructional units, including CTA Lynch, Kuipers, Pyke, and Szesze, in press. In , CTA was implemented in five highly diverse middle schools that were matched with five comparison schools using traditional curriculum materials in a quasi-experimental research design.

All 8th graders in the five CTA schools, a total of about 1, students, participated in the CTA curriculum, while all 8th graders in the matched schools used the science curriculum materials normally available. Students were given pre- and posttests. In , the study was replicated in the same five pairs of schools. In both years, students who participated in the CTA curriculum scored significantly higher than comparison students on a posttest.

Average scores of students who participated in the CTA curriculum showed higher levels of fluency with the concept of conservation of matter Lynch, However, because the concept is so difficult, most students in both the treatment and control group still have misconceptions, and few have a flexible, fully scientific understanding of the conservation of matter. The effect sizes were largest among three subgroups considered at risk for low science achievement, including Hispanic students, low-income students, and English language learners. Building on these positive results, ThinkerTools was expanded to focus not only on mastery of these laws of motion but also on scientific reasoning and understanding of the nature of science White and Frederiksen, In the week unit, students were guided to reflect on their own thinking and learning while they carry out a series of investigations.

The integrated instructional unit was designed to help them learn about science processes as well as about the subject of force and motion. The instructional unit supports students as they formulate hypotheses, conduct empirical investigations, work with conceptually analogous computer simulations, and refine a conceptual model for the phenomena.


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Across the series of investigations, the integrated instructional unit introduces increasingly complex concepts. Formative assessments are integrated throughout the instructional sequence in ways that allow students to self-assess and reflect on core aspects of inquiry and epistemological dimensions of learning. Researchers investigated the impact of Thinker Tools in 12 7th, 8th, and 9th grade classrooms with 3 teachers and students.

In this assessment, students were engaged in a thought experiment that asked them to conceptualize, design, and think through a hypothetical research study. Gains in scores for students in the reflective self-assessment classes and control classrooms were compared. Results were also broken out by students categorized as high and low achieving, based on performance on a standardized test conducted before the intervention.

Students in the reflective self-assessment classes exhibited greater gains on a test of investigative skills. This was especially true for low-achieving students. The researchers further analyzed specific components of the associated scientific processes—formulation of hypotheses, designing an experiment, predicting results, drawing conclusions from made-up results, and relating those conclusions back to the original hypotheses.

Students in the reflective-self-assessment classes did better on all of these components than those in control classrooms, especially on the more difficult components drawing conclusions and relating them to the original hypotheses. Beginning in , a large group of technologists, classroom teachers, and education researchers developed the Computer as Learning Partner CLP. Over 10 years, the team developed and tested eight versions of a week unit on thermodynamics. The project engaged students in a sequence of laboratory experiences supported by computers, discussions, and other forms of science instruction.

For example, computer images and words prompted students to make predictions about heat and conductivity and perform experiments using temperature-sensitive probes to confirm or refute their predictions. Students were given tasks related to scientific phenomena affecting their daily lives—such as how to keep a drink cold for lunch or selecting appropriate clothing for hiking in the mountains—as a way to motivate their interest and curiosity.


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  • Over 10 years of study and revision, the integrated instructional unit proved increasingly effective in achieving its stated learning goals. Before the sequenced instruction was introduced, only 3 percent of middle school students could adequately explain the difference between heat and temperature. Eight versions later, about half of the students participating in CLP could explain this difference, representing a percent increase in achievement.

    In addition, nearly percent of students who participated in the final version of the instructional unit demonstrated understanding of conductors Linn and Songer, By comparison, only 25 percent of a group of undergraduate chemistry students at the University of California at Berkeley could adequately explain the difference between heat and temperature. Longitudinal studies of CLP participants revealed that, among those who went on to take high school physics, over 90 percent thought science was relevant to their lives.

    And 60 percent could provide examples of scientific phenomena in their daily lives. By comparison, only 60 percent of high school physics students who had not participated in the unit during middle school thought science was relevant to their lives, and only 30 percent could give examples in their daily lives Linn and Hsi, In reviewing both bodies of research, we aim to specify how laboratory experiences can further each of the science learning goals outlined at the beginning of this chapter. Our review was complicated by weaknesses in the earlier research on typical laboratory experiences, isolated from the stream of instruction Hofstein and Lunetta, Second, many studies were weak in the selection and control of variables.

    Investigators failed to examine or report important variables relating to student abilities and attitudes. They also did not give enough attention to extraneous factors that might affect student outcomes, such as instruction outside the laboratory. Third, the studies of typical laboratory experiences usually involved a small group of students with little diversity, making it difficult to generalize the results to the large, diverse population of U.

    Fourth, investigators did not give enough attention to the adequacy of the instruments used to measure student outcomes. As an example, paper and pencil tests that focus on testing mastery of subject matter, the most frequently used assessment, do not capture student attainment of all of the goals we have identified. Such tests are not able to measure student progress toward goals that may be unique to laboratory experiences, such as developing scientific reasoning, understanding the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work, and development of practical skills.

    Finally, most of the available research on typical laboratory experiences does not fully describe these activities. Few studies have examined teacher behavior, the classroom learning environment, or variables identifying teacher-student interaction. In addition, few recent studies have focused on laboratory manuals—both what is in them and how they are used. Research on the intended design of laboratory experiences, their implementation, and whether the implementation resembles the initial design would provide the understanding needed to guide improvements in laboratory instruction.

    However, only a few studies of typical laboratory experiences have measured the effectiveness of particular laboratory experiences in terms of both the extent. We also found weaknesses in the evolving research on integrated instructional units. First, these new units tend to be hothouse projects; researchers work intensively with teachers to construct atypical learning environments. While some have been developed and studied over a number of years and iterations, they usually involve relatively small samples of students. Only now are some of these efforts expanding to a scale that will allow robust generalizations about their value and how best to implement them.

    Second, these integrated instructional units have not been designed specifically to contrast some version of laboratory or practical experience with a lack of such experience. Researchers commonly aim to document the complex interactions between and among students, teachers, laboratory materials, and equipment in an effort to develop profiles of successful interventions Cobb et al. A final note on the review of research: the scope of our study did not allow for an in-depth review of all of the individual studies of laboratory education conducted over the past 30 years.

    Fortunately, three major reviews of the literature from the s, s, and s are available Lazarowitz and Tamir, ; Lunetta, ; Hofstein and Lunetta, The committee relied on these reviews in our analysis of studies published before To identify studies published between and , the committee searched electronic databases. To supplement the database search, the committee commissioned three experts to review the nascent body of research on integrated instructional units Bell, ; Duschl, ; Millar, We also invited researchers who are currently developing, revising, and studying the effectiveness of integrated instructional units to present their findings at committee meetings Linn, ; Lynch, All of these activities yielded few studies that focused on the high school level and were conducted in the United States.

    For this reason, the committee expanded the range of the literature considered to include some studies targeted at middle school and some international studies. We included stud-. In drawing conclusions from studies that were not conducted at the high school level, the committee took into consideration the extent to which laboratory experiences in high school differ from those in elementary and postsecondary education.

    Developmental differences among students, the organizational structure of schools, and the preparation of teachers are a few of the many factors that vary by school level and that the committee considered in making inferences from the available research. Similarly, when deliberating on studies conducted outside the United States, we considered differences in the science curriculum, the organization of schools, and other factors that might influence the outcomes of laboratory education. Claims that typical laboratory experiences help students master science content rest largely on the argument that opportunities to directly interact with, observe, and manipulate materials will help students to better grasp difficult scientific concepts.

    It is believed that these experiences will force students to confront their misunderstandings about phenomena and shift toward more scientific understanding. Despite these claims, there is almost no direct evidence that typical laboratory experiences that are isolated from the flow of science instruction are particularly valuable for learning specific scientific content Hofstein and Lunetta, , ; Lazarowitz and Tamir, White points out that many major reviews of science education from the s and s indicate that laboratory work does little to improve understanding of science content as measured by paper and pencil tests, and later studies from the s and early s do not challenge this view.

    Other studies indicate that typical laboratory experiences are no more effective in helping students master science subject matter than demonstrations in high school biology Coulter, , demonstration and discussion Yager, Engen, and Snider, , and viewing filmed experiments in chemistry Ben-Zvi, Hofstein, Kempa, and Samuel, In contrast to most of the research, a single comparative study Freedman, found that students who received regular laboratory instruction over the course of a school year performed better on a test of physical science knowledge than a control group of students who took a similar physical science course without laboratory activities.

    Clearly, most of the evidence does not support the argument that typical laboratory experiences lead to improved learning of science content. More specifically, concrete experiences with phenomena alone do not appear to. However, the students remained unable to develop a fully scientific mental model of a circuit system. The authors suggested that greater engagement with conceptual organizers, such as analogies and concept maps, could have helped students develop more scientific understandings of basic electricity.

    Hands-On Earth Science Activities for Grades K-6

    Several researchers, including Dupin and Joshua , have reported similar findings. Studies indicate that students often hold beliefs so intensely that even their observations in the laboratory are strongly influenced by those beliefs Champagne, Gunstone, and Klopfer, , cited in Lunetta, ; Linn, Students tend to adjust their observations to fit their current beliefs rather than change their beliefs in the face of conflicting observations. Current integrated instructional units build on earlier studies that found integration of laboratory experiences with other instructional activities enhanced mastery of subject matter Dupin and Joshua, ; White and Gunstone, , cited in Lunetta, A recent review of these and other studies concluded Hofstein and Lunetta, , p.

    Integrated instructional units often focus on complex science topics that are difficult for students to understand. For this reason, the sequenced units incorporate instructional activities specifically designed to confront intuitive conceptions and provide an environment in which students can construct normative conceptions.

    In order to help students link formal, scientific concepts to real. Emerging studies indicate that exposure to these integrated instructional units leads to demonstrable gains in student mastery of a number of science topics in comparison to more traditional approaches. Integrated instructional units in biology have enhanced student mastery of genetics Hickey, Kindfield, Horwitz, and Christie, and natural selection Reiser et al. A chemistry unit has led to gains in student understanding of stoichiometry Lynch, Many, but not all, of these instructional units combine computer-based simulations of the phenomena under study with direct interactions with these phenomena.

    The role of technology in providing laboratory experiences is described later in this chapter. While philosophers of science now agree that there is no single scientific method, they do agree that a number of reasoning skills are critical to research across the natural sciences. These reasoning skills include identifying questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations, designing and conducting scientific investigations, developing and revising scientific explanations and models, recognizing and analyzing alternative explanations and models, and making and defending a scientific argument.

    It is not necessarily the case that these skills are sequenced in a particular way or used in every scientific investigation. Instead, they are representative of the abilities that both scientists and students need to investigate the material world and make meaning out of those investigations. Early research on the development of investigative skills suggested that students could learn aspects of scientific reasoning through typical laboratory instruction in college-level physics Reif and St. John, , cited in Hofstein and Lunetta, and in high school and college biology Raghubir, ; Wheatley, , cited in Hofstein and Lunetta, More recent research, however, suggests that high school and college science teachers often emphasize laboratory procedures, leaving little time for discussion of how to plan an investigation or interpret its results Tobin, ; see Chapter 4.

    Taken as a whole, the evidence indicates that typical laboratory work promotes only a few aspects of the full process of scientific reasoning—making observations and organizing, communicating, and interpreting data gathered from these observations.

    Typical laboratory experiences appear to have little effect on more complex aspects of scientific reasoning, such as the capacity to formulate research questions, design experiments, draw conclusions from observational data, and make inferences Klopfer, , cited in White, Research developing from studies of integrated instructional units indicates that laboratory experiences can play an important role in developing all aspects of scientific reasoning, including the more complex aspects, if the laboratory experiences are integrated with small group discussion, lectures, and other forms of science instruction.

    With carefully designed instruction that incorporates opportunities to conduct investigations and reflect on the results, students as young as 4th and 5th grade can develop sophisticated scientific thinking Lehrer and Schauble, ; Metz, Kuhn and colleagues have shown that 5th graders can learn to experiment effectively, albeit in carefully controlled domains and with extended supervised practice Kuhn, Schauble, and Garcia-Mila, Explicit instruction on the purposes of experiments appears necessary to help 6th grade students design them well Schauble, Giaser, Duschl, Schulze, and John, These studies suggest that laboratory experiences must be carefully designed to support the development of scientific reasoning.

    Given the difficulty most students have with reasoning scientifically, a number of instructional units have focused on this goal. Evidence from several studies indicates that, with the appropriate scaffolding provided in these units, students can successfully reason scientifically. They can learn to design experiments Schauble et al. Integrated instructional units seem especially beneficial in developing scientific reasoning skills among lower ability students White and Frederiksen, Recently, research has focused on an important element of scientific reasoning—the ability to construct scientific arguments.

    Developing, revising, and communicating scientific arguments is now recognized as a core scientific practice Driver, Newton, and Osborne, ; Duschl and Osborne, Such efforts have taken many forms. Students designed an investigation to determine which school drinking fountain had the best-tasting water. The students designed data collection protocols, collected and analyzed their data, and then argued about their findings Rosebery et al. The Knowledge Integration Environment project asked middle school students to examine a common set of evidence to debate competing hypotheses about light propagation.

    Overall, most students learned the scientific concept that light goes on forever , although those who made better arguments learned more than their peers Bell and Linn, These and other examples e. Science educators and researchers have long claimed that learning practical laboratory skills is one of the important goals for laboratory experiences and that such skills may be attainable only through such experiences White, ; Woolnough, However, development of practical skills has been measured in research less frequently than mastery of subject matter or scientific reasoning.

    Such practical outcomes deserve more attention, especially for laboratory experiences that are a critical part of vocational or technical training in some high school programs. When a primary goal of a program or course is to train students for jobs in laboratory settings, they must have the opportunity to learn to use and read sophisticated instruments and carry out standardized experimental procedures. The critical questions about acquiring these skills through laboratory experiences may not be whether laboratory experiences help students learn them, but how the experiences can be constructed so as to be most effective in teaching such skills.

    Some research indicates that typical laboratory experiences specifically focused on learning practical skills can help students progress toward other goals. For example, one study found that students were often deficient in the simple skills needed to successfully carry out typical laboratory activities, such as using instruments to make measurements and collect accurate data Bryce and Robertson, This research suggests that development of practical skills may increase the probability that students will achieve the intended results in laboratory experiences. Achieving the intended results of a laboratory activity is a necessary, though not sufficient, step toward effectiveness in helping students attain laboratory learning goals.

    Some research on typical laboratory experiences indicates that girls handle laboratory equipment less frequently than boys, and that this tendency is associated with less interest in science and less self-confidence in science ability among girls Jovanovic and King, It is possible that helping girls to develop instrumentation skills may help them to participate more actively and enhance their interest in learning science.

    Studies of integrated instructional units have not examined the extent to which engagement with these units may enhance practical skills in using laboratory materials and equipment. This reflects an instructional emphasis on helping students to learn scientific ideas with real understanding and on developing their skills at investigating scientific phenomena, rather than on particular laboratory techniques, such as taking accurate measurements or manipulating equipment. There is no evidence to suggest that students do not learn practical skills through integrated instructional units, but to date researchers have not assessed such practical skills.

    The general public understanding of science is similarly inaccurate. Laboratory experiences are considered the primary mecha-. Research on student understanding of the nature of science provides little evidence of improvement with science instruction Lederman, ; Driver et al. Younger students tend to believe that experiments yield direct answers to questions; during middle and high school, students shift to a vague notion of experiments being tests of ideas.

    Only a small number of students appear to leave high school with a notion of science as model-building and experimentation, in an ongoing process of testing and revision Driver et al. The conclusion that most experts draw from these results is that the isolated nature and rote procedural focus of typical laboratory experiences inhibits students from developing robust conceptions of the nature of science. Consequently, some have argued that the nature of science must be an explicit target of instruction Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, ; Lederman, Abd-El-Khalick, Bell, and Schwartz, As discussed above, there is reasonable evidence that integrated instructional units help students to learn processes of scientific inquiry.

    However, such instructional units do not appear, on their own, to help students develop robust conceptions of the nature of science. Students engaged in the BGuILE science instructional unit showed no gains in understanding the nature of science from their participation, and they seemed not even to see their experience in the unit as necessarily related to professional science Sandoval and Morrison, These findings and others have led to the suggestion that the nature of science must be an explicit target of instruction Lederman et al. There is evidence from the ThinkerTools science instructional unit that by engaging in reflective self-assessment on their own scientific investiga-.

    Instead, they saw science as meaningful and explicable. The available research leaves open the question of whether or not these experiences help students to develop an explicit, reflective conceptual framework about the nature of science. Studies of the effect of typical laboratory experiences on student interest are much rarer than those focusing on student achievement or other cognitive outcomes Hofstein and Lunetta, ; White, The number of studies that address interest, attitudes, and other affective outcomes has decreased over the past decade, as researchers have focused almost exclusively on cognitive outcomes Hofstein and Lunetta, Among the few studies available, the evidence is mixed.

    Some studies indicate that laboratory experiences lead to more positive attitudes Renner, Abraham, and Birnie, ; Denny and Chennell, Other studies show no relation between laboratory experiences and affect Ato and Wilkinson, ; Freedman, , and still others report laboratory experiences turned students away from science Holden, ; Shepardson and Pizzini, There are, however, two apparent weaknesses in studies of interest and attitude Hofstein and Lunetta, One is that researchers often do not carefully define interest and how it should be measured.

    Consequently, it is unclear if students simply reported liking laboratory activities more than other classroom activities, or if laboratory activities engendered more interest in science as a field, or in taking science courses, or something else. When students do not understand the goals of experiments or laboratory investigations, negative consequences for learning occur Schauble et al.

    In fact, students often do not make important connections between the purpose of a typical laboratory investigation and the design of the experiments.

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    They do not connect the experiment with what they have done earlier, and they do not note the discrepancies among their own concepts, the concepts of their peers, and those of the science community Champagne et al. The SLEI, which has been validated cross-nationally, measures five dimensions of the laboratory environment: student cohesiveness, open-endedness, integration, rule clarity, and material environment see Table for a description of each scale.

    All five dimensions appear to be positively related with student attitudes, although the. Extent to which the laboratory activities emphasize an open-ended, divergent approach to experimentation. Extent to which laboratory activities are integrated with nonlaboratory and theory classes. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Liss, Inc. In some populations, there is a negative relation to attitudes Fraser et al. Research using the SLEI indicates that positive student attitudes are particularly strongly associated with cohesiveness the extent to which students know, help, and are supportive of one another and integration the extent to which laboratory activities are integrated with nonlaboratory and theory classes Fraser et al.

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    When evidence is available, it suggests that students who participate in these units show greater interest in and more positive attitudes toward science. For example, in a study of ThinkerTools, completion of projects was used as a measure of student interest. The rate of submitting completed projects was higher for students in the ThinkerTools curriculum than for those in traditional instruction.

    This was true for all grades and ability levels White and. Frederiksen, Students who participated in the CTA curriculum had higher levels of basic engagement active participation in activities and were more likely to focus on learning from the activities than students in the control group Lynch et al. This positive effect on engagement was especially strong among low-income students. Students who participated in CLP during middle school, when surveyed years later as high school seniors, were more likely to report that science is relevant to their lives than students who did not participate Linn and Hsi, Further research is needed to illuminate which aspects of this instructional unit contribute to increased interest.

    Teamwork and collaboration appear in research on typical laboratory experiences in two ways. First, working in groups is seen as a way to enhance student learning, usually with reference to literature on cooperative learning or to the importance of providing opportunities for students to discuss their ideas. Second and more recently, attention has focused on the ability to work in groups as an outcome itself, with laboratory experiences seen as an ideal opportunity to develop these skills.

    The focus on teamwork as an outcome is usually linked to arguments that this is an essential skill for workers in the 21st century Partnership for 21st Century Skills, There is considerable evidence that collaborative work can help students learn, especially if students with high ability work with students with low ability Webb and Palincsar, Collaboration seems especially helpful to lower ability students, but only when they work with more knowledgeable peers Webb, Nemer, Chizhik, and Sugrue, Building on this research, integrated instructional units engage students in small-group collaboration as a way to encourage them to connect what they know either from their own experiences or from prior instruction to their laboratory experiences.

    Often, individual students disagree about prospective answers to the questions under investigation or the best way to approach them, and collaboration encourages students to articulate and explain their reasoning. A number of studies suggest that such collaborative investigation is effective in helping students to learn targeted scientific concepts Coleman, ; Roschelle, Extant research lacks specific assessment of the kinds of collaborative skills that might be learned by individual students through laboratory work.

    The assumption appears to be that if students collaborate and such collaborations are effective in supporting their conceptual learning, then they are probably learning collaborative skills, too. The two bodies of research—the earlier research on typical laboratory experiences and the emerging research on integrated instructional units—yield different findings about the effectiveness of laboratory experiences in advancing the goals identified by the committee.

    In general, the nascent body of research on integrated instructional units offers the promise that laboratory experiences embedded in a larger stream of science instruction can be more effective in advancing these goals than are typical laboratory experiences see Table Research on the effectiveness of typical laboratory experiences is methodologically weak and fragmented. The limited evidence available suggests that typical laboratory experiences, by themselves, are neither better nor worse than other methods of science instruction for helping students master science subject matter.

    Studies have demonstrated increases in student mastery of complex topics in physics, chemistry, and biology. Typical laboratory experiences appear, based on the limited research available, to support some aspects of scientific reasoning; however, typical laboratory experiences alone are not sufficient for promoting more sophisticated scientific reasoning abilities, such as asking appropriate questions,. Research on integrated instructional units provides evidence that the laboratory experiences and other forms of instruction they include promote development of several aspects of scientific reasoning, including the ability to ask appropriate questions, design experiments, and draw inferences.

    In contrast, some studies find that participating in integrated instructional units that are designed specifically with this goal in mind enhances understanding of the nature of science. Studies conducted to date also suggest that the units are effective in helping diverse groups of students attain these three learning goals.

    In contrast, the earlier research on typical laboratory experiences indicates that such typical laboratory experiences are neither better nor worse than other forms of science instruction in supporting student mastery of subject matter. Due to a lack of available studies, the committee was unable to draw conclusions about the extent to which either typical laboratory experiences or laboratory experiences incorporated into integrated instructional units might advance the other goals identified at the beginning of this chapter—enhancing understanding of the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work, acquiring practical skills, and developing teamwork skills.

    The three bodies of research we have discussed—research on how people learn, research on typical laboratory experiences, and developing research on how students learn in integrated instructional units—yield information that promises to inform the design of more effective laboratory experiences.

    The committee considers the emerging evidence sufficient to suggest four general principles that can help laboratory experiences achieve the goals outlined above. It must be stressed, however, that research to date has not described in much detail how these principles can be implemented nor how each principle might relate to each of the educational goals of laboratory experiences.

    Effective laboratory experiences have clear learning goals that guide the design of the experience. Ideally these goals are clearly communicated to students. Without a clear understanding of the purposes of a laboratory activity, students seem not to get much from it. Conversely, when the purposes of a laboratory activity are clearly communicated by teachers to students, then students seem capable of understanding them and carrying them out. There seems to be no compelling evidence that particular purposes are more understandable to students than others.

    Effective laboratory experiences are thoughtfully sequenced into the flow of classroom science instruction. That is, they are explicitly linked to what has come before and what will come after. A common theme in reviews of laboratory practice in the United States is that laboratory experiences are presented to students as isolated events, unconnected with other aspects of classroom work.

    In contrast, integrated instructional units embed laboratory experiences with other activities that build on the laboratory experiences and push students to reflect on and better understand these experiences. The way a particular laboratory experience is integrated into a flow of activities should be guided by the goals of the overall sequence of instruction and of the particular laboratory experience. Research in the learning sciences National Research Council, , strongly implies that conceptual understanding, scientific reasoning, and practical skills are three capabilities that are not mutually exclusive.

    An educational program that partitions the teaching and learning of content from the teaching and learning of process is likely to be ineffective in helping students develop scientific reasoning skills and an understanding of science as a way of knowing. The research on integrated instructional units, all of which intertwine exploration of content with process through laboratory experiences, suggests that integration of content and process promotes attainment of several goals identified by the committee.

    Laboratory experiences are more likely to be effective when they focus students more on discussing the activities they have done during their laboratory experiences and reflecting on the meaning they can make from them, than on the laboratory activities themselves. Crucially, the focus of laboratory experiences and the surrounding instructional activities should not simply be on confirming presented ideas, but on developing explanations to make sense of patterns of data. Teaching strategies that encourage students to articulate their hypotheses about phenomena prior to experimentation and to then reflect on their ideas after experimentation are demonstrably more successful at supporting student attainment of the goals of mastery of subject matter, developing scientific reasoning, and increasing interest in science and science learning.

    At the same time, opportunities for ongoing discussion and reflection could potentially support students in developing teamwork skills. From scales to microscopes, technology in many forms plays an integral role in most high school laboratory experiences. Over the past two decades, personal computers have enabled the development of software specifically designed to help students learn science, and the Internet is an increasingly used tool for science learning and for science itself.

    This section examines the role that computer technologies now and may someday play in science learning in relation to laboratory experiences. Other uses, less clearly laboratory experiences in themselves, provide certain features that aid science learning. Researchers and science educators have developed a number of software programs to support science learning in various ways.

    In this section, we summarize what we see as the main ways in which computer software can support science learning through providing or augmenting laboratory experiences. Perhaps the most common form of science education software are programs that enable students to interact with carefully crafted models of natural phenomena that are difficult to see and understand in the real world and have proven historically difficult for students to understand. Such programs are able to show conceptual interrelationships and connections between theoretical constructs and natural phenomena through the use of multiple, linked representations.

    For example, velocity can be linked to acceleration and position in ways that make the interrelationships understandable to students Roschelle, Kaput, and Stroup, Chromosome genetics can be linked to changes in pedigrees and populations Horowitz, Molecular chemical representations can be linked to chemical equations Kozma, Students use the microworld to solve various problems of motion in one or two dimensions, using the com-.

    ThinkerTools is but one example of this type of interactive, representational software. Others have been developed to help students reason about motion Roschelle, , electricity Gutwill, Fredericksen, and White, , heat and temperature Linn, Bell, and Hsi, , genetics Horwitz and Christie, , and chemical reactions Kozma, , among others. These programs differ substantially from one another in how they represent their target phenomena, as there are substantial differences in the topics themselves and in the problems that students are known to have in understanding them.

    They share, however, a common approach to solving a similar set of problems—how to represent natural phenomena that are otherwise invisible in ways that help students make their own thinking explicit and guide them to normative scientific understanding. For example, students working through the ThinkerTools curriculum always experiment with objects in the real world before they work with the computer tools. The goals of the laboratory experiences are to provide some experience with the phenomena under study and some initial ideas that can then be explored on the computer.

    Various types of simulations of phenomena represent another form of technology for science learning. These simulations allow students to explore and observe phenomena that are too expensive, infeasible, or even dangerous to interact with directly. Strictly speaking, a computer simulation is a program that simulates a particular phenomenon by running a computational model whose behavior can sometimes be changed by modifying input parameters to the model. For example, the GenScope program provides a set of linked representations of genetics and genetics phenomena that would otherwise be unavailable for study to most students Horowitz and Christie, The software represents alleles, chromosomes, family pedigrees, and the like and links representations across levels in ways that enable students to trace inherited traits to specific genetic differences.

    The software uses an underlying Mendelian model of genetic inheritance to gov-. As with the representations described above, embedding the use of the software in a carefully thought out curriculum sequence is crucial to supporting student learning Hickey et al. The investigators created a series of structured simulations allowing students to investigate problems of evolution by natural selection. In the Galapagos finch environment, for example, students can examine a carefully selected set of data from the island of Daphne Major to explain a historical case of natural selection. Studies show that students can learn from the BGuILE environments when these environments are embedded in a well-organized curriculum Sandoval and Reiser, They also show that successful implementation of such technology-supported curricula relies heavily on teachers Tabak, The examples discussed here share a crucial feature.

    The representations built into the software and the interface tools provided for learners are intended to help them learn in very specific ways. There are a great number of such tools that have been developed over the last quarter of a century. Many of them have been shown to produce impressive learning gains for students at the secondary level. Besides the ones mentioned, other tools are designed to structure specific scientific reasoning skills, such as prediction Friedler et al.

    Rather than thinking of these representations and simulations as a way to replace laboratory experiences, the most successful instructional sequences integrate them with a series of empirical laboratory investigations. Advances in computer technologies have had a tremendous impact on how science is done and on what scientists can study. We found, however, that some innovations in scientific practice, especially uses of the Internet, are beginning to be applied to secondary. With respect to future laboratory experiences, perhaps the most significant advance in many scientific fields is the aggregation of large, varied data sets into Internet-accessible databases.

    These databases are most commonly built for specific scientific communities, but some researchers are creating and studying new, learner-centered interfaces to allow access by teachers and schools. These research projects build on instructional design principles illuminated by the integrated instructional units discussed above. CENS is currently working on ecosystem monitoring, seismology, contaminant flow transport, and marine microbiology. As sensor networks come on line, making data available, science educators at the center are developing middle school curricula that include web-based tools to enable students to explore the same data sets that the professional scientists are exploring Pea, Mills, and Takeuchi, The interfaces professional scientists use to access such databases tend to be too inflexible and technical for students to use successfully Bell, Bounding the space of possible data under consideration, supporting appropriate considerations of theory, and promoting understanding of the norms used in the visualization can help support students in developing a shared understanding of the data.

    With such support, students can develop both conceptual understanding and understanding of the data analysis process. Focusing students on causal explanation and argumentation based on the data analysis process can help them move from a descriptive, phenomenological view of science to one that considers theoretical issues of cause Bell, Further research and evaluation of the educational benefit of student interaction with large scientific databases are absolutely necessary.

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