Date of Original Version

12-1-1996

Type

Article

Rights Management

Copyright UNIV CHICAGO PRESS 1996

Abstract or Description

Recent work on scientific reasoning has largely focused on either domain-specific content knowledge or domain-general reasoning knowledge. This study investigated the interaction between the 2 types of knowledge in a real-world domain in which strict control of variables was not possible. We used a context, sinking objects, in which 10-, 12-, and, 14-year-old children's strong a priori beliefs could be revealed by participant-designed experiments. The results showed that most children initially believed weight alone determined an object's sinking rate. Older, but not younger, participants typically viewed experimentation as a means of exploring the effects of attributes other than weight. However, experimentation did help all children to understand the effects of object shape and material on sinking rates. The results suggest a number of questions for further research, including how children come to understand experimentation as a matter of evaluation rather than demonstration, and the role of unexpected experimental results in driving conceptual understanding.

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Published In

CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 67, 6, 2709-2727.