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Hands on tasks in a middle school science classroom

1 January 1996


When students are encouraged to take control of their learning, and when they are active participants in that learning process, students are more likely to be active and motivated learners. The works of Pia get, Vygotsky, and Jerome Bruner suggest these notions. Their belief that students must have an active part in their own learning framed this study. It suggested that hands on tasks, like the ones found in many science classrooms, engage students for the simple reason that they involve students in the learning process. By letting. students get their hands into the task, such as in a science experiment, students would be active, interested, and motivated to participate in their own learning.

By looking at a middle school science classroom, I found evidence that hands on tasks do indeed motivate students to be active classroom participants. Further, the evidence suggested that tasks that were the best motivators of active participation were the ones that included one or more appeals to four inherent student desires. Those desires are: curiosity, competence, social reciprocity, and physical activity. The tasks that did the best job of motivating students to be active participants in the tasks created by teachers were those that started by creating interest, encouraged students to take ownership and pride in their actions, included a group or partnership element, and -involved some form of physical activity. All of these elements were directed, in the best tasks, toward a genuine search for clarity which was discovered, directed, and ultimately achieved by the students. When students are able to conduct such a search, when they feel competent to do so, when they can identity with their teachers and fellow classmates during the search, and when they are entitled to be physically active during that search, students will be engaged.


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