Effective Programs in Elementary Science: A Best Evidence Synthesis

This session reports the findings of a systematic review of research on elementary science. Treatments reviewed included instructional processes, science kits, and technology.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 9:45am to 11:45am
PI-organized Discussion

In this session, presenters describe a systematic review of research on the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in elementary schools. Presenters discuss the need for the review and will detail the research design. Study inclusion criteria included use of randomized or matched control groups, study duration of at least four weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 17 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES=+0.02 in four studies). The studies included rigorous evaluations of programs such as FOSS, STC, and Insights. However, inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES=+0.30 in eight studies). These included approaches such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration. Technology approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and cooperative learning, such as BrainPOP and The Voyage of the Mimi, showed promise (ES=+0.37 in five studies). The review concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning in the elementary grades.