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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Ros Roberts

Oshima, Ryugo & Roberts, Ros (2017). Exploring ‘The Thinking Behind the Doing’ in an Investigation: Students’ Understanding of Variables. In Science Education Research and Practice in Asia-Pacific and Beyond. Yeo, Jennifer, Teo, Tang Wee & Tang, Kok-Sing Singapore: Springer. 69-83.

Author(s) from Durham


Recent curriculum developments emphasise that scientific practice involves understanding about evidence. The concepts of evidence have been identified as ‘the thinking behind the doing’ and have been validated as a knowledge base underpinning this understanding, and we contrast this conceptual approach with the widespread ‘process approach’ in which the understandings may be implicit. One aspect of understanding is the validity of design and its underpinning variable structure. This small-scale exploratory questionnaire study, conducted with over 150 lower secondary school students from a school in Japan, enabled us to explore students’ understanding of variables. Some items were answered well, suggesting students’ competence with the ideas addressed, but interestingly a comparison of items that targeted similar understandings identified different responses. We tentatively suggest that the differences may be explained by students approaching the items from a ‘doing’ perspective – they may be imagining the stages they may go through, as if they were conducting the investigation – rather than from a ‘thinking behind the doing’ perspective wherein they would draw on their understanding of evidence, and specifically their understanding of variables, to respond to the items.