"Laboratory exercises help me memorize the scientific truths": A study of eighth graders' scientific epistemological views and learning in laboratory activities

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Upon analysis of 25 Taiwanese eighth graders' questionnaire responses, actual laboratory observation recording, and interview details, the present study was cond7ucted to explore the interplay between students' scientific epistemological views (SEVs) and their learning in school laboratory activities. It was revealed that, although higher achievers tended to have a greater frequency of verbal negotiations directly related to laboratory details, students' SEVs were also related to their laboratory verbal interactions. It was found that students having SEVs more oriented to constructivist views of science, called constructivist students, tended to focus more on negotiating the meanings of experiments with their peers than did students having SEVs more in line with empiricist views of science, called empiricist students (p < 0.05). Constructivist students perceived actual laboratory learning environments as less open-ended and less integrated (p < 0.05) and they tended to prefer a more student-supported and open-ended approach to experimentation (p < 0.05). Interview details showed that constructivist learners tended to explore deeply the involved concepts of laboratory activities, resulting in a richer understanding. On the other hand, empiricist learners placed greater emphasis on "doing" laboratory work, following the codified procedures of science textbooks, and they believed that laboratory exercises made scientific concepts more impressive, acting as memory aids. This study concludes that an appropriate understanding of the constructivist epistemology of science should be an essential prerequisite for implementing so-called "constructivist science teaching."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)654-674
Number of pages21
JournalScience Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Nov
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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