Using principles of cognitive science to improve science learning in middle school: What works when and for whom?

Christian D. Schunn, Nora S. Newcombe, Louis Alfieri, Jennifer G. Cromley, Christine Massey, Joseph F. Merlino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Four principles of cognitive science were used to make systematic revisions in middle school science instructional modules from two kinds of curriculum: one popular textbook series and one popular hands-on series (two modules each). Schools were randomly assigned to 1 of the 3 arms (cognitive science modifications with professional development, active control with professional development, or business-as-usual). Two cohorts of students were followed in each arm for each setting. There were significant benefits of the cognitive science intervention, but the nature of effects varied for the two settings and curricula. For the text-based curriculum, positive effects of cognitive science modifications were concentrated in classrooms with lower proportions of underrepresented minority students. For the hands-on curriculum, there were positive effects that were not linked to school composition. Participation in the active control did not significantly improve student learning. Implications for policy and research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-240
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • cognitive science
  • contextual interactions
  • curricular modifications
  • middle school science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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