The Interplay of Firsthand and Text-Based Investigations in Science Education

CIERA Report #2-007

Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar
Shirley J. Magnusson
University of Michigan

CIERA Inquiry 2: Home and School
What is the role of text in the science instruction of young children? What are the opportunities in guided inquiry science instruction to advance young children's literacy learning?

In this paper, Palincsar and Magnusson present results of their studies of the use of text in support of firsthand scientific inquiry instruction in the early elementary grades.

Palincsar and Magnusson present a partial transcript of two teaching sessions in which an expert classroom teachers incorporated text into her inquiry instruction. The knowledge the researchers gained from these sessions helped inform the next phase of their research program--the development of a new text genre modeled on a scientist's notebook. Unlike traditional texts that simply present a body of information, the notebook format models the use of scientific reasoning for the children. The authors also hoped that this format would help children learn how to read informational texts more critically.

Palincsar and Magnusson compared the classroom use of the innovative notebook texts to the use of more traditional expository texts on the same topic. A notebook and a traditional text were constructed for each of two subtopics within the general topic of light: reflection and refraction. Students were assessed on their knowledge of these topics before and after their exposure to the texts. The authors found that the notebook genre produced significantly higher results.

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A version of this paper will appear in D. Klahr & S. Carver (Eds.), Cognition and instruction: 30th Carnegie Symposium. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.