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"
Recent curriculum reforms in science in Hong Kong shows a steady trend of moving from stage-managed heurism to a more genuine investigative approach which focuses on the solving of scientific problems. The trend was first seen in the Teacher Assessment Scheme in Advanced Level Biology and then in the Junior Secondary Science curriculum implemented in 2000 (CDC 1998). The new primary General Studies curriculum also strongly recommends the adoption of the investigative approach in teaching science-related topics (CDC 2002a). The Curriculum Development Council has also formulated a set of objectives under the category of "Scientific Investigation" at different key stages across the Science Key Learning Area from Primary 1 to Secondary 5 in a progressive manner (CDC 2002b, p.20). The main target is "to develop science process skills and understanding of the nature of science". This implies that science investigation is not only regarded as pedagogy for teaching and learning but also treated as an important aspect of the nature of science which should form part of pupils' understanding of the discipline.
In the light of this fervour to place scientific investigation in a more central position of the school curriculum, we feel compelled to ask two questions:
- What are the levels of cognitive understanding or ability reached by pupils at different grade levels which enable them to conduct science investigation?
- How does this inform curriculum planners or teachers in setting appropriate targets and in designing a more effective curriculum for these pupils to enhance their ability to use the investigative approach?
This paper is a report of the preliminary findings obtained from a project entitled "Hong Kong Primary Pupils' Ideas in Science Investigation". The aim of the project is to find out how Primary 4 and 5 pupils go about investigations so as to reflect on their understanding and reasoning behind the process. As data analysis still continues, this paper will report only the preliminary findings of part of the study. Before presenting these findings and discussing the insights drawn, we consider it useful to revisit the characteristics of scientific investigation in order to put our discussion in context. We then review briefly some of the theories of cognitive development, and research findings which further our understanding of the progressive development of children's reasoning in science investigation.
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