University of Iowa’s Brian Hand and colleagues conducted a two-year study evaluating the effects of the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) approach on 3rd to 5th grade students’ critical thinking and science learning in the classroom. 48 elementary schools in Iowa participated in the implementation of a science program utilizing an SWH approach (n=9,963 students, 24E, 24C) embedded in a student-centered pedagogy of dialogue and critical thinking processes reflective of the real-life practices of scientists. Teachers in the experimental group participated in professional development that immersed teachers in argument-based inquiry activities to help learn science content, emphasizing the essential use of language in science.
The Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) was used to assess students’ knowledge of scientific principles pre- and post-treatment. Additionally, all 5th grade students (n=2,353) were evaluated for changes in critical thinking skills using the Cornell Critical Thinking test (CCT). Researchers found that:
- While the intervention had no statistically significant effect on students’ science learning, the SWH approach did have a statistically significant effect on the CCT test results (ES=+0.17).
- What is more, students with IEPS, ELL students, and students receiving free or reduced-price lunch gained the most from participation in the intervention with effect sizes of +0.21, +0.29, and +0.19 for those groups, respectively.
The authors highlight the importance of these findings in promoting scientific literacy within all students in a way that transcends simply learning content, informing student practices that can be used across all domains of science and problem-solving situations. Additionally, student populations that generally find limited success within science classrooms seem to benefit the most from a dialogical student-centered environment.
Source (Open Access): Hand, B., Shelley, M. C., Laugerman, M., Fostvedt, L., & Therrien, W. (2018). Improving critical thinking growth for disadvantaged groups within elementary school science: A randomized controlled trial using the Science Writing Heuristic approach. Science Education, 102(4), 693-710.