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ENHANCING EPISTEMIC LEARNING IN ELEMENTARY SCIENCE THROUGH A BLACK BOX GAME

A. Vazquez-Alonso

University of the Balearic Islands (SPAIN)
Scholars consider that epistemic knowledge about how science and technology work and how scientists think and act to validate knowledge is a key component of scientific literacy, which in turn is a renowned aim of science education for citizens’ everyday life in a sustainable world increasingly permeated by science and technology.

However, teaching and learning epistemic knowledge is difficult, and especially for primary teachers and students, due to its innovative and metacognitive nature. The lack of training and resources for teaching epistemic knowledge contents are the most prominent hindrances.

Serious educational games offer an authentic analogy of scientific practices that replicate some science epistemic tenets and simulate the cooperation and competition among scientists when researching and may help to overcome those difficulties. Further, game design is flexible enough to allow developmental adaptation to students’ grade and other personal traits. The use of games addresses the former difficulties, and in primary science education, explicitly develops students’ motivation and interest and contributes to enhance learning on these hard epistemic topics.

This communication aims to innovate the initial training of primary science teachers through their involvement in developing personal teaching materials with the format of cooperative serious games to teach epistemic contents to students. Serious games to teach epistemic knowledge are usually sorted in the literature as puzzles, cubes, scenarios, black boxes, cards, etc.

A black box serious game project was selected for training teachers and teach students some epistemic topics. The general research question here is: is a black box serious game an appropriate tool to effectively teach epistemic contents in primary science?

The aim of black box serious game spins about predicting the content of the black box (a simple closed box containing different objects), using rough observations, thinking and some gradual steps to intruding the box, which simulate new technologies.

Teachers work to design the teaching learning sequence and lesson plan for the black box game and to appropriate the contents and the pedagogy following the didactic model of the 7E’s. The complete design will be displayed at the conference.

Students work in small groups to respond the following project question: what may contain the box? Along the steps searching for answers, students are softly introduced to the main aspects of practices carried out by scientists to validate knowledge.

The students respond initial questions and develop some individual, small-group and whole-class activities, such as exploring the black box, writing observed data, proposing hypothesis and explanations, elaborating and discussing explanations and supporting data, and arguing on conclusions. A final whole-class activity discusses all the answers to reach the project conclusions.

The details of teachers’ and students’ contributions mentioned above, the materials and some students’ productions (observations and justifications) will be displayed at the conference. The expected results involve primary teachers’ satisfaction and students’ motivation and interest after playing the black box game.

Finally, the results are expected to encourage teachers to continue their epistemic self-training through deepening the complexity of the game.