Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Giving children the power to be scientists

10.03.2011
Children who are taught how to think and act like scientists develop a clearer understanding of the subject, a study has shown.

The research project led by The University of Nottingham and The Open University has shown that school children who took the lead in investigating science topics of interest to them gained an understanding of good scientific practice.

The study shows that this method of ‘personal inquiry’ could be used to help children develop the skills needed to weigh up misinformation in the media, understand the impact of science and technology on everyday life and help them to make better personal decisions on issues including diet, health and their own effect on the environment.

Click here for full story The three-year project involved providing pupils aged 11 to 14 at Hadden Park High School in Bilborough, Nottingham, and Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes with a new computer toolkit named nQuire, now available as a free download for teachers and schools.

Running on both desktop PCs and handheld notebook-style devices, the software is a high-tech twist on the traditional lesson plan — guiding the pupils through devising and planning scientific experiments, collecting and analysing data and discussing the results.

The pupils were given wide themes for their studies but were asked to decide on more specific topics that were of interest to them, including heart rate and fitness, micro climates, healthy eating, sustainability and the effect of noise pollution on birds.

The flexible nature of the toolkit meant that children could become “science investigators”, starting an inquiry in the classroom then collecting data in the playground, at a local nature reserve, or even at home, then sharing and analysing their findings back in class.

Professor Mike Sharples, who led the project at Nottingham, said: “Mobile devices such as smartphones and netbooks are sophisticated scientific instruments, with built-in cameras, voice recorders, and location sensors. The children quickly learned how to use the nQuire toolkit to follow investigations.

“The results from the trials we conducted showed a positive effect on learning outcomes, a maintained enjoyment of science lessons and a small but genuine improvement in pupils’ understanding of the scientific process.

“Science can be a hard sell in terms of persuading young people to consider it as an option for further education or as a career, particularly those from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it shapes the world in which we live and it is incredibly important that people develop the skills necessary to navigate the huge amount of ‘bad science’ and misinformation which is propagated in the media. Our results show that the personal inquiry learning process can take pupils in the right direction.”

Professor Eileen Scanlon, Associate Director (Research & Scholarship), who led the project at The Open University, said: “We wanted to examine whether we could effectively use technology and the process of investigation — or ‘personal inquiry’ — to get pupils to start thinking like scientists.

“The tool this project has produced enables teachers to construct the kind of support pupils need to really engage with a subject area. Using mobile devices gave the pupils support wherever they were, which is an important element of learning. Teaching doesn’t have to be confined to the classroom and in fact, as our research shows, can be much more effective when it’s allowed to extend beyond the typical learning environment. Our focus at the OU has been on support for the geography elements of the curriculum, so it has been particularly important for us to encourage pupils to investigate, and engage with, their local environment.”

The trials showed that after using nQuire, the pupils were able to better grasp the principles underpinning sound scientific practice and whether decisions made during the course of their inquires could threaten the validity of their investigations.

The project has been supported by ScienceScope, a company that develops sensing and data logging equipment, and funded with £1.2 million from the joint Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme.

The nQuire software is now available to teachers and schools as an Open Source application, available for free download at www.nquire.org.uk and can by run on a Windows, Macintosh or Linux PC, on mobile device web browsers such as the Apple iPad or can be downloaded to a USB data stick to allow it to be run from the stick rather than installed as software on a computer.

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

Story credits
More information is available from Professor Mike Sharples on +44 (0)115 951 3716, mike.sharples@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager
Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk

Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793

Location: King's Meadow Campus

Emma Thorne | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>