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Middle-School Science Through Design-Based Learning versus Scripted Inquiry: Better Overall Science Concept Learning and Equity Gap Reduction


"This paper contrasts performances overall and by gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES) for middle school students learning science through traditional scripted inquiry versus a design-based, systems approach. Students designed and built electrical alarm systems to learn electricity concepts over a fourweek period using authentic engineering design methods. The contrast study took place in the eighth grade of an urban, public school district, with the systems approach implemented in 26 science classes (10 teachers and 587 students) and the scripted inquiry approach implemented in inquiry groups of 20 science classes (five teachers and 466 students). The results suggest that a systems design approach for teaching science concepts has superior performance in terms of knowledge gain achievements in core science concepts, engagement, and retention when compared to a scripted inquiry approach. The systems design approach was most helpful to low-achieving African American students."