Exploring South African grade 10 learners' knowledge about scientific inquiry in school science
Mojekwu, Emmanuel Ogochukwu
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This study investigates South African Grade 10 learners’ understandings about scientific inquiry and the implications of their views in relation to the outcomes of the new curriculum, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). The study sought to explore learners’ understandings about specific characteristics of scientific inquiry. These characteristics include: scientific investigations beginning with a question; there being no single set or sequence of steps followed in all investigations; and inquiry procedures being guided by the questions asked. Implications of learners’ scientific inquiry understandings in relation to the expected outcomes of the curriculum were inferred. The study followed a generic qualitative case study design, as the researcher sought to understand the nature, dynamics and complexity of learners’ views about scientific inquiry. This was essential in getting to understand what works to improve Grade 10 learners’ understandings about scientific inquiry. Sixty-seven Grade 10 learners from two schools in one village of the North-West Province were purposively sampled because of their proximity and accessibility to the researcher. The results revealed that participants hold different views and find it difficult to understand that: an investigation must have a hypothesis; a scientific investigation must have variables; a scientific investigation follows only one method; and there is a difference between an investigation and an experiment. The implication for this is the possibility that the learners might not be given opportunities in their schools to carry out different kinds of investigation in order to exhibit epistemic scientific inquiry. As seems the case, then, learners might be denied a chance to engage in the practices of science which in turn might help them to understand how scientific knowledge is developed and practiced as implicitly laid out in the South African CAPS documents. The results of the study have important implications for the development of scientific literacy in the South African educational settings. While authentic inquiry remains an ideal of science education, the achievement of informed views about the nature of scientific inquiry might be a realistic target in the South African context including poorly resourced contexts. The study recommends that more research should be undertaken to understand South African learners’ views about scientific inquiry. Research should also be conducted on how knowledge about scientific inquiry actually develops in science classrooms.
- Education