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Experimental Strategies and Conceptual ChangeThe article The Development of Scientific Reasoning in Knowledge-Rich Contextswritten by Leona Schauble relates a series of experiments which give some insight as tohow conceptual change and experimental strategies effect subjects of varying ages, tenfifth and sixth graders and ten noncollege adults. The conclusions drawn from the articleare relevant in determining the cognitive strengths and weaknesses in the subjects as wellas how these strengths and weaknesses vary as a result of differing ages. The objective ofthe study was to track changes in both the theories and reasoning strategies used byparticipants who conduct and interpret repeated cycles of experiments over severalsessions to learn about the causal structure of two physical science systems. The exactexperiments are not needed to understand the results of the experiments as long as theexperimentation strategies and conceptual changes are understood. The experimentation strategies approach tends to emphasize concern for logicalvalidity, (i.e. how the problem pieces together and why).
The conceptual change approachtends to be more concerned with the plausibility and explanatory coherence as tests fordeciding whether knowledge should be adopted. Schauble (1996) states that 'becauseprevious work focused either on the validity of strategies or the coherence of conceptions,it has tended to mask these close interrelations' (p.102). Therefore the results of theexperiments are incredibly useful in determining how validity and coherence playcomplementary roles. As stated earlier, it is not important that the exact nature of the experiments be listed aslong as the reader understands their validity. Each subject was asked to solve a series ofcomplex tasks in which the subjects attempted to 'discover the causal relationshipsbetween variables and outcomes in multivariable contexts' (Schauble, 1996, p.102).The adults conducted more informative experiments, giving them an advantage, yet bothgroups showed some improvement in understanding domain context.The intrigue surrounding these experiments is centered on what can be inferred fromthe learning habits observed in both the children and the adults. Even though the adultshad barely any more schooling than the children, it is not surprising that the adults hadmore complex and comprehensive experimentation strategies. Such strategies can beobtained through personal experience.
It makes sense that the adults would still have awider knowledge base to choose from, helping them to be more systematic. However, itis interesting that both groups continued to use incorrect strategies long after they hadproved invalid. Both groups tended to favor a particular strategy and attempted tomanipulate the other variables to make sense of that favored strategy.The article does not explain this phenomena, it simply states that it did happen. Thesubjects even went as far as reverting back to old strategies that failed on similarexperiences. This may be due to favored heuristics that determine an individuals problemsolving skills. However, if this were true it would seem that adults would prove evenmore persistent in their incorrect strategies as their heuristics are more fully developed. The study shows just the opposite.
On repeated experimentation the the adultsdemonstrated 79% 'comprehension', or possible variation in the task explored, and thechildren only demonstrated 66% comprehension (Schauble, 1996, p. 110). This tends toargue against the huerisitcs notion because both groups began at approximately the samecomprehension levels. These results seem to lend to the formerly discussed view of awider knowledge base for adults than exist in children. These findings do not completelydiscredit the heuristic notion as the study does not touch on the use of heuristics andtherefore was not very comprehensive itself.It is interesting that the plan structures of the adults began as more complex but leveledoff with that of the children upon repeated experimentation. By the second task half of thechildren were using the more complex plan structures and the children and adults nolonger differed significantly. It can be inferred by these results that our reasoning capacityis something that is inherent and varies little through out our lifetimes.
This can iliminate alot of ambiguity in the classroom.Teacher's can take the findings of this experiment and focus less on working on planstructures and more on comprehensivity and eliminating inefficiency due to emphasis oninvalid, favored strategies. The results of the experiments listed in the article are useful intheir own right but they can also act as feeder experiments for later research. Now thatthe learning strategies have been somewhat determined in relation to age studies can delvedeeper into what motivates these decisions. If the motivations are found they can befueled or inhibited depending on the positive or negative effects on learning. Schauble(1996) states that there is a positive relationship between the kind of plan structureadopted and the percentage of valid inferences made' (p. 110). The article itself presenteda workable plan structure and evoked valid inferences to be used in later research.ReferencesShauble, L.
(1996). The Development of Scientific Reasoning in Knowledge-Rich Contexts. Developmental Psychology 32. p.102-119..
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