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Scientific Reasoning in Biology - investigating observation competency and opportunities for intervention (ENB, 10/2013-09/2016)

involved persons:

LMU: Prof. Dr. Birgit J. Neuhaus, Prof. Beate Sodian, Dr. Lucia Kohlhauf, Janina Klemm

Observation is one of the basic methods in science. It is not only an epistemological method itself, but also an important competence for other methods like experimenting or comparing. In preschool age children are already able to observe, but their observations are not on the detailed level that is needed for science (Kohlhauf, Rutke & Neuhaus, 2011). Observation competence consists of 3 dimensions: describing details, inquiry process and interpreting the observations.
The dimension of the model show parallels to prior research from developmental psychology on scientific reasoning. Several studies found out that children in preschool and early school age are able to reason scientifically to some extent, although their success decreases if the evidence contradicts their prior beliefs (Croker & Buchanan, 2011).
Theory of Mind is the ability to attribute mental states to one self and others (Wellman & Liu, 2004). As this understanding of different sources for beliefs and their changeability should be a prerequisite for experimenting, Piekny, Grube & Maehler (2013) found a connection between theory of mind and scientific reasoning in preschoolers. In our study we would like to explore parallels in children’s observation competency and their general scientific reasoning abilities as well as the influence theory of mind.
In a second step we investigate whether children’s observation competency can be trained. For this, we developed age –appropriate, play-based materials that can be used either in a scheduled training program or in a more flexible way in everyday life in preschool. The evaluation of these training materials is also an important aim of this project.
This research is also part of the international graduate program „Reason“, which focuses on investigating specific aspects related to scientific reasoning and argumentation. The research within this program is interdisciplinary and collaborative, linking psychology, education as well as empirical research on learning in specific domains (e.g. medical education, mathematics educations or biology education).