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Fostering observation competence in preschool (10/2009-01/2013)

involved persons:

LMU: Prof. Dr. Birgit J. Neuhaus, Dr. Lucia Kohlhauf

At the end of 2004, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (abbr.: Kultusministerkonferenz - KMK) passed educational standards that describe competencies pupils should have achieved in the four key areas content knowledge, scientific inquiry, communication and decision making at the end of tenth grade (KMK, 2004). For being able to measure and foster these competencies, it is first of all necessary to devise and empirically evaluate competence models. In science education some competence models in the area of knowledge acquisition by experimentation have already been developed (e.g., Mayer, 2007; Hammann, 2007). However, in biology education experiments are not the only way how knowledge can be acquired. Aristoteles and Darwin are only two personalities from science history whose knowledge is based on scientific observations. Scientific observation is a fundamental method of scientific inquiry. Without this method biological accomplishments such as the theory of evolution, sytematics, histology, and anatomy would not exist. Observation competence is also crucial/ necessary to use other scientific methods successfully, e.g., carrying out experiments.

Hence, the first aim of this project is to develop and empirically evaluate a model describing different levels and partial competencies of scientific observation.

A systematic training and reflection of this scientific method in biology is indispensable. The passing of education plans for preschool starting in 2005 (e.g., Bavarian Ministry of State/ State Institute of Early Childhood Research Munich, 2006) revived the discussion whether and to what extent children’s observation competencies should be fostered in preschool.

However, early promotion of children’s observation competencies does not mean to prepone the teaching of subject matter knowledge in kindergarten, but should rather encourage them playfully in their own interests, foster their creativity and independent thinking, and provide a profound basis for lifelong self-determined learning.

Scientific observations require time, patience, perseverance, concentration and the ability to think divergently, i.e. to be curious, creative, seek actively for information – all these competencies can and have to be fostered as early as at preschool age. Therefore, in the second part of this research project, modules will be developed and empirically evaluated through which observation competence can be trained playfully at preschool age.