Match between cognitive demands of a Philadelphia science curriculum and students' cognitive abilities: Cross-cultural Piagetian replication

Andrew Michael Cleminson, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Doubt has been expressed by science educators whether mandated policy changes alone can improve the quality of science education in classrooms. Rather, they see resolution of the problem in terms of fostering conceptual change in the direction of the science curriculum. In Philadelphia the introduction of a standardized curriculum policy has brought about an increase in the quantity of science teaching that students receive. This study examined the standardized ninth grade General Physical Science curriculum in order to evaluate its success in improving the quality of the science education of targeted students. This study employed one perspective from learning theory based on a Piagetian approach in order to examine student performance in science. Seventy-nine ninth grade students completed two Science Reasoning Tasks. From their scores, each student was assigned a level of cognitive development. From these results the number of students at different stages of cognitive development was calculated. Each objective in the ninth grade General Physical Science curriculum was assessed for cognitive demand using a validated Curriculum Analysis Taxonomy. It was found that the mean measured level of cognitive development of students could account for twenty-four percent of the variance in recorded test scores in a city-wide science examination. Further, it was found that less than ten percent of the subjects could reason at a formal level. From the curriculum analysis it was found that almost half of the curriculum objectives assessed required formal reasoning for mastery. It was concluded that there is a mismatch between the cognitive demands of the ninth grade General Physical Science curriculum in Philadelphia and the cognitive abilities of students taking the course. Furthermore, it was concluded that Science Reasoning Tasks may underestimate the reasoning skills of some of those students in multilingual classrooms whose first language is not English.

Subject Area

Science education|Educational theory

Recommended Citation

Cleminson, Andrew Michael, "Match between cognitive demands of a Philadelphia science curriculum and students' cognitive abilities: Cross-cultural Piagetian replication" (1989). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9015077.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9015077

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