Science education is progressively more focused on employing inquiry-based learning methods in the classroom and increasing scientific literacy among students. However, due to time and resource constraints, many classroom science activities and laboratory experiments focus on simple inquiry, with a step-by-step approach to reach predetermined outcomes. The science classroom inquiry (SCI) simulations were designed to give students real life, authentic science experiences within the confines of a typical classroom. The SCI simulations allow students to engage with a science problem in a meaningful, inquiry-based manner. Three discrete SCI simulations were created as website applications for use with middle school and high school students. For each simulation, students were tasked with solving a scientific problem through investigation and hypothesis testing. After completion of the simulation, 67% of students reported a change in how they perceived authentic science practices, specifically related to the complex and dynamic nature of scientific research and how scientists approach problems. Moreover, 80% of the students who did not report a change in how they viewed the practice of science indicated that the simulation confirmed or strengthened their prior understanding. Additionally, we found a statistically significant positive correlation between students’ self-reported changes in understanding of authentic science practices and the degree to which each simulation benefitted learning. Since SCI simulations were effective in promoting both student learning and student understanding of authentic science practices with both middle and high school students, we propose that SCI simulations are a valuable and versatile technology that can be used to educate and inspire a wide range of science students on the real-world complexities inherent in scientific study.
Peffer ME, Beckler ML, Schunn C, Renken M, Revak A (2015) Science Classroom Inquiry (SCI) Simulations: A Novel Method to Scaffold Science Learning. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0120638. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120638
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