Fostering Fifth-Grade Students’ Ability to Design Comparative Experiments Using an Online Model

Guoqing Zhao, Rongchi Zhao, Xuanyang Yang


Chinese Elementary Science Curriculum Standards requires that fifth- and sixth- grade students can plan and design comparative experiments. However, students at these grades have difficulties in distinguishing and controlling variables in a specific context. This study aimed to investigate the effects of a simulation-embedded scientific inquiry unit on fifth-grade students’ ability to design comparative experiments. Thermodynamics Challenge, implemented in the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) and translated into Chinese, engaged fifth-grade students in conducting virtual investigations with NetLogo models to test how thermal insulation effect is enhanced by different material use. A total of 86 fifth-grade students (47 boys and 39 girls) from an elementary school in Weifang City, Shandong Province participated in the research. Pre- and post-tests were used to examine changes in students’ understanding of comparative experiment design. Results showed that all students have a significant improvement in knowledge of comparative experiments from pre- to post-test, and students with low prior knowledge improved more than the other two groups. These findings indicated the feasibility of fostering fifth-graders’ comparative experiment design with simulations. Implications for science teaching are discussed.

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Journal of Education and Development  ISSN 2529-7996 (Print)  ISSN 2591-7250 (Online)

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