Inquiry-based learning allows students to learn about scientific phenomena in an exploratory way. Inquiry-based learning can take place in online environments in which students read informational texts and experiment in virtual labs. We conducted two studies using eye-tracking to examine the integration of these two sources of information for students from vocational education (78 and 71 participants, respectively, mean age of 13 years and 7 months). In Study 1, we examined whether the amount of time spent on reading text and on integrating the text content with information from a virtual lab (as measured via gaze switches between the text and the lab) affected the quality of the inquiry-based learning process in the lab (i.e., correctly designed experiments and testable hypotheses created) and the learning gain (increase in domain knowledge from pretest to posttest). Results showed, on average, a gain in domain knowledge. Pretest scores were related to posttest scores, and this relation was mediated by the score for correctly designed experiments in the lab. There was no relation between informational text reading time and inquiry process quality or learning gain, but more frequent integration was associated with a higher score for experimentation in the virtual lab, and more frequent integration attenuated the relation between pretest score and designing correct experiments. Integration could thus compensate for the negative effects of lower prior knowledge. In Study 2, we examined whether integration was stimulated by highlighting correspondences between the informational text and the virtual lab (i.e., signaling). Integration was higher than in Study 1, but this did not further improve the quality of the inquiry process or the learning gain. A general conclusion is that integration fosters inquiry-based learning, but that stimulating additional integration may not result in further improvement.
- Informational text
- Inquiry-based learning