Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis

Robert E. Slavin, Cynthia Lake, Pam Hanley, Allen Thurston

This article presents a systematic review of research on the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in elementary schools. Study inclusion criteria included use of randomized or matched control groups, a study duration of at least 4 weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES = +0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES = +0.36 in 10 studies). Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and cooperative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES = +0.42 in 6 studies). The review concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning.

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