ERIC Number: ED431616
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1999-Apr
Learning in Science: How Do Deep and Surface Approaches Differ?
The purpose of this study was to compare in greater depth the qualitative differences between what previous researchers have called a deep versus surface approach to learning science. Six grade 8 students judged as typical using a deep or surface approach were videotaped or audiotaped during class group laboratory activities in a chemistry unit. They were also interviewed individually before and after instruction about related science concepts. On analysis of students' discourse and actions during the activities and their interview responses, several differences in learning approaches seemed apparent. These differences fell into five emergent categories: (1) generative thinking; (2) nature of explanations; (3) asking questions; (4) metacognitive activities; and (5) approach to tasks. When students used a deep approach, they ventured into their ideas more spontaneously; gave more elaborate explanations which described mechanisms and cause-effect relationships; asked questions which focused on explanations and causes, predictions, or resolving discrepancies in knowledge; and engaged in "on-line theorizing." Students using a surface approach gave explanations that were reformulations of the questions, a "black box" variety which did not refer to a mechanism, or macroscopic descriptions which referred only to what was visible. Their questions also referred to more basic factual or procedural information. The findings also suggest that to encourage a deep learning approach, teachers can provide prompts and contextualized scaffolding and explicitly encourage students to ask questions, predict, and explain during activities. (Contains 19 references.) (Author/NB)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Montreal, Canada, April 19-23, 1999).