Designing for Knowledge Integration: The Impact of Instructional Time
Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 12, Number 4, ISSN 1050-8406
Science educators face constant tradeoffs between allocating time to important topics and including more topics in the curriculum. We study 3,000 students experiencing 4 increasingly streamlined versions of a computer-enhanced middle school thermodynamics curriculum to investigate the impact of instructional time on knowledge integration. Knowledge integration refers to the process of adding new ideas and sorting through connections to develop a cohesive account of scientific phenomena. Our analyses contrast performance on inquiry assessments that require knowledge integration with performance on multiple-choice items. The results show that decreasing instructional time is strongly and significantly related to diminishing student knowledge integration around complex concepts. Whereas the inquiry assessments capture the impact of decreasing instructional time on knowledge integration, the multiple-choice assessments are relatively insensitive to these decreases. To explore further the process of knowledge integration, we follow 50 students through the full curriculum. We then analyze the performance of 1 representative student from middle school through high school. These case studies show why packing the curriculum with many science topics results in superficial understanding for many students. We show why deep understanding of science requires sustained study of carefully designed materials.
Clark, D. & Linn, M.C. (2003). Designing for Knowledge Integration: The Impact of Instructional Time. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(4), 451-493.