Fostering Students’ Scientific Reasoning Skills in Secondary Education

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Equipping students with scientific reasoning skills (SRS) is an important mission of twenty-first-century education and part of the national curriculum in Flemish secondary schools. Therefore, we need to gain a better understanding of ways in which the development of these skills can be promoted. To date, empirical research on learning environments to foster SRS is scarce. In the present study, a quasi-experimental intervention study on SRS was designed and conducted with a sample of eleventh grade behavioral and social science students. Because of the complexity of SRS, two experimental conditions were compared with a control group. The experimental conditions were either analytic (five classes, N = 87) or integrated (five classes, N = 101) and are both based on the cycle of scientific inquiry, OPIRR (orientation, preparation, implementation, reporting, and reflection). In the analytic condition, on the one hand, SRS were trained in a fragmented way using unrelated exercises. In the integrated condition, on the other hand, a holistic approach was used whereby all the tasks were based on two authentic scientific papers. In the control group (two classes, N = 55), teachers applied their existing methods in order to teach SRS. Results of this study show that participants in one of the experimental conditions developed significantly stronger SRS skills than participants in the control condition. There was no significant difference in SRS posttest results between both experimental conditions.