A mixed-age science collaborative between elementary and high school physics students: A study of attitude toward school science and inquiry skill

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Grade three students had significant improvements in inquiry ability and attitude toward school science as a function of their participation in mixed-age dyads completing inquiry-based science experiments with a high school physics partner. The social interaction between the ‘more capable other’ (Vygotsky, 1978) with the grade three student in the mixed-age problem solving team indicates a contributing factor in this improvement. ^ This study employed a quasi-experimental design with intact groups of non-random assignment. The non-parametric Wilcoxon test (p = 0.025) was used to analyze scores for each academic achievement group for significant differences pre- and post-collaborative in “Inquiry” skill and “Attitude” toward school science scores. ^ Three grade three classrooms from one elementary school and one high school physics class from the same school district were involved in the study. The high school physics class teamed with one intact grade three class as the mixed-age dyad performing the “hands-on” experiments (treatment). The two grade three classes teamed as same-age peer dyads (comparison group) to perform the same experiments on the same day. ^ Using methods patterned after the way scientists investigate their world, the dyads performed experiments considered for future grade three national assessments (NAEP, 1994), i.e. “Which paper towel holds the most water?”; “Which magnet is stronger?”; “Which type of sugar, cubed or loose, dissolves best in warm water?” Trained raters scored the written lab reports using standardized scoring guides and characteristic benchmark responses to determine the “Inquiry” skill score for each subject. ^ The “Attitude” toward school science score for each subject was determined from the Likert scale survey, Individual and Group Attitudes Toward Science and the open-ended Sentence Completion Test (SCT) (Piburn & Sidlick, 1992). Three raters scored the SCT survey for each subject. ^ This study showed that for a grade three student, participation in a mixed-age problem solving dyad significantly improved the “Inquiry” skill and “Attitude” toward school science. It would seem to indicate that the social interaction with a “more knowledgeable other” significantly improves a grade three student's “Inquiry” skill ability and “Attitude” toward school science. ^