Classroom use of multimedia-supported predict-observe-explain tasks to elicit and promote discussion about students' physics conceptions
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This study investigates two secondary science classes using an interactive multimedia program that was designed for use in small groups to elicit and promote discussion of students pre-instructional conceptions of motion. The software was designed and constructed by the author and incorporated sixteen digital video clips, primarily focussing on projectile motion, showing difficult, expensive, time-consuming or dangerous demonstrations of mostly real-life, out-of-classroom scenarios. The program used predict-observe-explain (POE) strategy to structure the students' engagement with each scenario-the clips acting as stimuli for the sixteen POE tasks. This strategy involves students predicting the outcome of a demonstration and discussing the reasons for their prediction, observing the demonstration and finally explaining any discrepancies between their prediction and observation (White & Gunstone, 1992). The choice and sequence of the video clips, as well as the multiple-choice options available to students in the prediction phase of each task, were informed by alternative conception research and the history of science literature.This interpretive study uses constructivism as a theoretical perspective to explore three main issues relating to the use of the multimedia-supported POE tasks: firstly, the students' learning conversations during their use of the POE tasks; secondly, the use of the program as an instrument to probe students' science conceptions; and thirdly,' the affordances and constraints of the computer-mediated environment for the POE strategy. Students worked in pairs and were required to type full sentence responses that were recorded by the computer for later analysis by the researcher. In addition, the students were required to make pencil and paper drawings during some tasks. Other data sources for this mainly qualitative study included audio and video recordings of student discussions, interviews with selected students and their teachers, classroom observations, and student questionnaires.Findings suggested that students participated in meaningful small group discussions at the computer and the program acted as an efficient and convenient teaching instrument to elicit and record their conceptions of motion. Indeed, the multimedia nature of the program offered fresh and exciting opportunities that mark a new development in the use of the predict-observe-explain strategy in science education. The findings have implications for authentic technology-mediated learning in science classrooms.
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