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Middle-School Science Through Design-Based Learning versus Scripted Inquiry

Abstract

"This paper contrasted performance overall and by gender, ethnicity, and SES for middle
school students learning science through traditional scripted inquiry versus a design-based,
systems approach, in which students designed and built electrical alarm systems to learn
electricity concepts over a 4-week period using authentic engineering design methods. The
contrast study took place in the 8th grade of an urban, public school district, with the systems
approach implemented in 26 science classes (10 teachers and 587 students) and the scripted
inquiry approach implemented in contrast group of 20 science classes (5 teachers and 466
students). The results suggest that a systems design approach for teaching science concepts has
superior performance in terms of knowledge gain achievements in core science concepts,
engagement, and retention when compared with a guided inquiry approach. The systems design
approach was most helpful to low-achieving African American students."

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