A new systematic review in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching analyzes the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in elementary schools. It concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning.
Study inclusion criteria included the use of randomized or matched control groups, study duration of at least four weeks, and the use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. The findings were as follows:
Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES=+0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES=+0.36 in 10 studies).
Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and cooperative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES=+0.42 in 6 studies).
Source: Slavin, R. E., Lake, C., Hanley, P., & Thurston, A. (2014). Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best‐evidence synthesis. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(7), 870-901.