The emerging scientist: A case study of fourth-grade students' science journals

Jeanne Marie Clidas, Fordham University


This study investigated what students' school science journals revealed about learning. Using a qualitative research design, a content analysis was performed on five journals written by fourth graders over the course of one school year. From the data emerged a number of hypotheses regarding the learning states exhibited by the students as they engaged in inquiry.^ The four states of learning, Initial Knowledge, Reflections on New Experiences, Connecting New Experiences with Initial Knowledge, and Changed Knowledge, were used in a recursive and interactive fashion by all the students. At the beginning of inquiry, students recorded what they already knew about the concept they were about to investigate. During inquiry, students reflected on what they were experiencing and observing as they interacted with materials and other investigators. Through application, questioning, and self-evaluation the students made connections between their initial knowledge and their new experiences. These connections led the students to construct new knowledge which produced a state of changed knowledge ready to be used in future inquiries.^ The use of writing as a tool for supporting inquiry was demonstrated by the findings of the study. Despite differences in ability, the journals of the five participants all reveal a use of the four states of learning and change in their initial knowledge base. Change is subtle and occurs over time. This change is affected by the initial knowledge that the student brings to inquiry and by the student's interests. The study revealed that students bring similar, but not identical, knowledge to inquiry and achieve similar, but not identical, outcomes as the result of inquiry.^ The results of the study indicate that it is important for teachers to make students' preconceptions public before inquiry begins. It also suggests that the use of writing as a tool for learning empowers students to think and act more like experts as they engage in inquiry. Instructional methods must take into account these four states and use them to support students' learning. ^

Subject Area

Elementary education|Science education

Recommended Citation

Clidas, Jeanne Marie, "The emerging scientist: A case study of fourth-grade students' science journals" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412130.