A combined approach to strengthen children’s scientific thinking: direct instruction on scientific reasoning and training of teacher’s verbal support

Joep van der Graaf*, Eva van de Sande, Martine Gijsel, Eliane Segers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Inquiry-based lessons have been demonstrated to improve children’s scientific thinking (i.e. reasoning abilities and domain-specific knowledge). Although empirical evidence shows that inquiry-based learning requires instruction, research comes from two approaches that have not been bridged yet: direct instruction of scientific reasoning and teacher training of verbal support. We investigated how these two types of instruction separately or combined strengthened children’s scientific thinking by comparing four conditions: baseline, direct instruction, verbal support, and a combined approach. Effectiveness of an inquiry-based lesson series on scientific reasoning abilities, vocabulary, and domain-specific knowledge (near and far transfer) were studied among 301 fourth graders. Results showed that both approaches strengthened different components of scientific reasoning abilities, and that a combination of instructions was most effective for scientific reasoning abilities, vocabulary, and domain-specific knowledge. Domain-specific knowledge acquisition was strengthened only when both instructions were provided. It can thus be concluded that each type of instruction has unique contributions to children’s science learning and that these instructions complement each other. Our study thus showed that inquiry-based lesson series when preceded by direct instruction of scientific reasoning and scaffolded with verbal support are most effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1138
Number of pages20
JournalInternational journal of science education
Issue number9
Early online date18 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • inquiry learning
  • intervention
  • primary school
  • Scientific thinking
  • verbal support
  • direct instruction

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