Science Literacy

for All Kansans

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1251 Wescoe Hall Drive
Room 2010
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS
(785) 864-2379
(785) 864-2270

Research: Developing New Strategies for Studying
the Teaching
and Learning of Science and Technology


Understanding the range of learning styles that students use as they accumulate scientific facts and explore the nature of the scientific process, discovering misconceptions that develop from current teaching practice or from the prior knowledge that a student brings to the study of science, and studying how students construct working models of the physical world from their experiences in the science classroom are key elements in constructing more effective teaching strategies. This information should inform all of our efforts in teaching and curriculum reform in the sciences and can guide our efforts to incorporate educational and scientific technology into university and pre-university courses in an effective manner. Teams of researchers at KU are engaged in studies of how human cognition influences science teaching and learning.

Project Profiles

1) Research on the Scientific Reasoning of All Students in the Middle Grades

In this project, a multidisciplinary team of science teachers, cognitive and developmental psychologists, science educator, and special educator are collaborating to investigate the learning of scientific reasoning of students in the middle grades, including students with disabilities. The project will focus on the following areas of concentration from ROLE: the intersect between Quadrant II: Fundamental Research on Behavioral and Cognitive, Affective, and Social Aspects of Learning and Quadrant III: Research on SMET Learning in Educational Settings.

We define scientific reasoning as the abilities to construct and evaluate scientific claims and to make and justify decisions about science and technology-related issues (e.g, global warming, genetically-engineered foods, health issues, risk assessment, teaching of evolution in schools). Our project will include a specific research focus on the development of students with high-incidence disabilities -- those with mild or moderate mental retardation, speech or language impairments, emotional disturbance, or specific learning disability; this group includes students with attention deficit disorders and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders.

In this project, we plan to examine patterns of scientific reasoning in middle-level students, including those with disabilities, to identify basic cognitive factors that might contribute to difficulties in scientific reasoning, and to develop instructional strategies to foster the development of scientific reasoning abilities in all middle-level students. The project will address the following research issues:

  • How can we bring together the fields of cognitive science, special education, and science education to investigate the important issues of scientific reasoning for all science learners?

  • Why do most people have difficulty applying principles of scientific reasoning?

  • What are the differences in cognitive processes involved in scientific reasoning among learning disabled, normal, high, and low achievers? To what extent does scientific reasoning, once mastered by a student, transfer to situations outside of the classroom?

  • What are effective strategies (in curriculum, instruction, assessment, information technology, and social learning environment) to accommodate and support all science learners, including students with disabilities, in learning to reason scientifically?

Key Personnel:

, Associate Professor, Science Education
, Associate Professor, Cognitive Psychology
, Courtesy Associate Professor, Center for Research on Learning

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This page last updated April 15, 2003