Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 5, Issue 3, Article
8 (Dec., 2004)
Yeung Chung LEE and Pun Hon NG
Hong Kong primary pupils' cognitive understanding and reasoning in conducting science investigation: A pilot study on the topic of "Keeping Warm"
The above analysis represents only a tentative account of the insights drawn from the present study. There are certainly limitations in drawing conclusions at the present stage particularly with such a small sample size and a narrow context of investigation. Nevertheless, our analysis seems to indicate that there are considerable limitations in pupils' understanding to allow them to make thorough plans with sufficient reliability and validity. However, there is evidence that Primary 4 and 5 pupils have at least some understanding of the need to control variables. There are also indications that primary pupils could come up with ad hoc ideas while they are implementing the task probably because they need concrete stimuli to prompt them to think and make decisions as to how to carry out the task. While intuitive thinking is still obvious in many primary pupils, the present study has yielded some evidence to support that pupils' cognitive understanding related to science investigations progresses with age as reported in other research studies (Gott and Duggan 1995; Millar et al. 1994). These findings seem to imply that upper primary pupils starting from Grade 4 are quite ready to conduct scientific investigation, probably with the guidance of their teachers. It seems likely that their reasoning skills could be improved when more experiences are provided to further their understanding of the nature and purpose of investigation, and of the kind of evidence needed to provide valid and reliable conclusions. However, it is difficult to generalize the present findings to the whole pupil population in Primary 4 and 5 in Hong Kong because of the small and uneven sample size. More research is needed to validate these findings, and to find out whether similar patterns exist in other contexts of scientific inquiry.
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