Constructivist Science Textbook
Thomas W. Speitel,Marie Iding & E. Barbara Klemm
University of Hawaii at Manoa
An instructional computer system to enhance a high school textbook series for physical and biological oceanography is being researched, designed and developed to meet the needs of students, instructional designers, and content experts ( Speitel, Reed, Shea and Inouye 1999). Often in traditional textbook and laboratory manuals, subject experts and teachers control both what is learned and how it is to be learned. More recently, instructional programs like the Hawaii Marine Science Studies (HMSS) program ( Klemm, Pottenger III, Speitel, Reed and Coopersmith 1991; Klemm, Reed, Pottenger III, Porter and Speitel 1995) have shown how print-based instructional systems can be designed and taught based on principles of constructivism. Here we briefly look at the constructivist design of HMSS and at its limitations in its printed textbased format, which gave rise to the present study that we report.
In its original print-based form, HMSS is designed to provide a structure for active student learning in the constructivist sense. To learn content, students engage in active hands-on investigations of phenomena, then think about what they are doing to construct their own understandings of events. Unlike traditional texts that tell students what they are learning, HMSS initiates learning of new topics with short, focused introductions that establish a need for learning more about a problem or situation. To learn more, HMSS students engage with hands-on activities, guided to think about what they are doing and to generate their own understandings based on what they have observed. They formulate and think about activities in which they encounter concrete, realworld situations.
Key to this is that in the HMSS, students are not passively reading text to obtain information, but instead are actively testing what they already know and extracting, interpreting and applying new information to concrete hands-on problems. They work in groups to record and discuss observations.