Higher order thinking skills in a science classroom computer simulation

Nesbitt-Hawes, Philip John (2005) Higher order thinking skills in a science classroom computer simulation. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Education is rapidly moving away from the instructional models of the 19th century and educationalists are now asserting that not only do students need to be able to learn by rote but also to be able to think in a more profound and complex manner. Students are required to develop new processes to handle the rapidly changing world that they are expected to take part in as they complete their formal learning.

This change is evident in all the developed nations and Australian students are finding that they are being asked to demonstrate a range of higher order thinking skills in all their school subjects.

Science courses in Queensland require students to be assessed on both complex reasoning and scientific process skills. Studies have shown that students can develop these skills in a number of ways that include the exposure to appropriate open-ended hands-on tasks. As higher order thinking skills underlie the development of both complex reasoning and scientific process, it is important that science educators take appropriate steps to facilitate the development of this level of thinking.

This study examined the use of some higher order thinking skills by students using Information Technology in their science classroom. It investigated the degree to which students used their higher order thinking skills when engaged in a computer simulation of a complex science task.

The study involved two pairs of Year 9 students, one pair each from the upper and lower quartiles of the year level, in a private Years 4 to 12 boys' school in an inner Brisbane suburb. All students had been immersed in Information Technology in Years 4 to 8 as part of a technology-across-the-curriculum project for all year levels in the school and at the time of the study were at the end of their second semester in Year 9. Students had worked with a large number of computer applications in all their subjects, averaging about one lesson in the computer room per day across all their subjects for the past year of schooling. The school also had a policy for learning and teaching that revolved around the development in students of critical thinking and, specifically in Science, complex reasoning, and scientific process skills.

During this study, students engaged in a computer simulation requiring the application of skills and knowledge already learnt in their science course. The modules of this simulation developed an understanding of the essentials for life and the quantities of a range of items from water to seeds to land areas that would be required for a number of people that would be needed to staff the Lunar Base. Prompts were given on the way, which assisted students in their decision making.

Students progressed through the various areas and stages of the development of the Lunar Base until they were satisfied that each area supported the others and that there was no imbalance that needed to be corrected. Once all stages had been completed, students were free to change variables and experiment further as they saw fit in order that they might produce the most self-sufficient Lunar Base possible.

There was some evidence that the simulation did encourage the students in the pairs observed to think in greater depth about the materials and to argue their convictions in an improved manner.

As well as the students appearing to increase in competency in argument over the period of time, the four students in their final interviews, spoke of feeling satisfied with the results of the lessons. The students also appeared more engrossed in their task and the pedagogy provided in the task was appreciated as it gave meaning to why they were required to learn scientific materials as well also presenting them with ways to find the knowledge for themselves.

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ID Code: 16201
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: McRobbie, Campbell
Keywords: Argumentation, computer instruction, computer simulations, critical thinking, higher order thinking skills, scientific reasoning, secondary science, senior biology, social construction
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Philip John Nesbitt-Hawes
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:58
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:40

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