Development of elementary school students' cognitive structures and information processing strategies under long-term constructivist-oriented science instruction

Ying Tien Wu, Chin Chung Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The main purpose of this study was to explore the effects of long-term constructivist-oriented science instruction on elementary school students' process of constructing cognitive structures. Furthermore, such effects on different science achievers were also investigated. The subjects of this study were 69 fifth graders in Taiwan, while they were assigned to either a constructivist-oriented instruction group or a traditional teaching group. The research treatment was conducted for 5 months, including six instructional units, and students' cognitive structures were probed through interviews coupled with a "metalistening technique" after the instruction of each unit. The interview narratives were transcribed into the format of "flow maps." In addition, the information processing modes shown in the flow maps were also investigated through a series of content analyses. The findings showed that the students in the constructivist-oriented instruction group attained significantly better learning outcomes in terms of the extent and integration of their cognitive structures, metacognition engagement, and the usage of information processing strategies. Moreover, it was also revealed that both high achievers and low achievers benefited from the constructivist-oriented instructional activities, but in different ways. For example, both high achievers and low achievers in the constructivist-oriented instruction group attained better usage of information processing strategies than their counterparts in traditional teaching group did; but only high achievers displayed better usage of higher order information processing modes (i.e., inferring or explaining) than their counterparts in traditional teaching group did. The results in this study finally suggest a four-stage model for students' process of constructing cognitive structure under the constructivist-oriented science instruction, including "cognitive structure acquisition," "metacognition enrichment," "cognitive structure integration," and "cognitive structure refinement."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-846
Number of pages25
JournalScience Education
Volume89
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Sep 1
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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