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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Ros Roberts

Roberts, R., Gott, R. & Glaesser, J. (2010). Students' approaches to open-ended science investigation: the importance of substantive and procedural understanding. Research Papers in Education 25(4): 377-407.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper investigates the respective roles of substantive and procedural understanding with regard to students’ ability to carry out an open-ended science investigation. The research is a case study centred on an intervention in which undergraduate initial teacher training students are taught the basic building blocks of procedural understanding. They are then put in the position of solving a
practical open-ended investigation. We report on the detail of their approaches and draw on recent papers in which the data are subjected to analysis using Qualitative Comparative Analysis techniques. We conclude that having been taught about evidence has contributed to the successful performance of the investigation; that
students’ greatest improvement was in their understanding of ideas associated with datasets; and that students were able to apply the ideas to work more iteratively in response to data in the investigation. We consider the possible curriculum implications of this exploratory work.