Using Evidence: An Analysis of US and German Science Teaching and Learning

The Using Evidence study is a collaboration among a group of researchers from the US and Germany, and is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The study was inspired by the current trend in science education to promote student argumentation and evidence-based reasoning during inquiry and constructivist-based lessons. The study has two aims: first, to develop tools for analyzing how students use evidence in videotaped classroom discussions and in their written responses to assessment questions; and second, to use those tools to determine the ways in which students use evidence to justify their explanations about the natural world.

Research at the Max Planck Institute is focused on how students support their scientific explanations with evidence or other information. To this end, researchers have cooperated in developing a coding instrument entitled Reasoning in Classroom Discourse. Based on a theoretical framework of reasoning, the instrument determines how (and whether) students use data, evidence, and/or rules to support claims about the reasons for sinking and floating. The instrument also includes a coding system that addresses the ways in which the teacher supports or provides reasoning during whole-class discussions.

The data that are currently being analyzed were collected by researchers from our Center’s Enterprise research group, the Stanford Education Assessment Laboratory at Stanford University, the University of Münster, and the University of Munich. Videotapes were made of classroom discussions of the reasons for sinking and floating in grades 3-4 (Germany) and 6-7 (US). Over 100 videotaped hours of classroom discussions may ultimately be analyzed for the project.
Researchers hope to use the instrument to analyze and, in some cases, compare the ways that students reason about sinking and floating in the US and Germany. While broad-based comparisons are difficult because the videotapes were collected from different age groups, different countries, and for different purposes, smaller micro-grained analyses of discussions are currently being performed to determine, for example, how reasoning develops around particular student misconceptions in different datasets.

The project is scheduled for completion during 2007.

Further Readings

Hardy, I., Jonen, A., Möller, K., & Stern, E. (2006). Effects of instructional support within constructivist learning environments for elementary school students' understanding of ''Floating and sinking''. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(2), 307-326.

Furtak, E. M. (2006). The dilemma of guidance in scientific inquiry teaching. Unpublished Dissertation, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.

Furtak, E. M. (2006). The problem with answers: An exploration of guided scientific inquiry teaching. Science Education, 90(3), p. 453-467.

Möller, K., Hardy, I., Jonen, A., Kleickmann, T., & Blumberg, E. (2006). Naturwissenschaften in der Primarstufe: Zur Förderung konzeptuellen Verständnisses durch Untericht und zur Wirksamkeit von Lehrerfortbildungen. In M. Prenzel & L. Allolio-Näcke (Hrsg.), Untersuchungen zur Bildungsqualität von Schule. Abschlussbericht des DFG-Schwerpunktprogramms (S. 161-193). Münster: Waxmann.


Erin Furtak
Ilonca Hardy

Cooperation Partner:
Kornelia Möller (Universität Münster)
Elsbeth Stern
(Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
Beate Sodian
(Universität München)
Richard J. Shavelson
(Stanford University)
Steve Schneider
Mike Timms
Mark Wilson
(University of California at Berkeley)
Joan Herman
(University of California at Los Angeles)