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This study contrasted spontaneous and reflective knowledge integration instruction delivered using a computer learning environment to enhance understanding of displaced volume. Both forms of instruction provided animated experiments and required students to predict outcomes, observe results, and explain their ideas. In addition, the reflective instruction diagnosed specific inconsistencies in student reasoning and encouraged students to reflect on these dilemmas as well as to construct general principles. We distinguished the impact of instruction on students who believed scientific phenomena are governed by principles (cohesive beliefs) versus students who believed that science is a collection of unrelated ldquofactsrdquo (dissociated beliefs). Students typically held multiple models of displacement, using different explanations depending on the form of assessment. For example, we found that 17% of these middle school students made accurate predictions about displacement experiments prior to instruction and 25% could construct an accurate general principle. However, only 12% consistently used the same explanation across assessments. After instruction, students were more accurate and more consistent: over 50% accurately predicted experimental outcomes, 79% gave an accurate general principle, and about 40% gave consistent responses. We found no advantages for enhanced animations over straightforward animated experiments. The reflective integration instruction led to more substantial long-term changes in student understanding than did spontaneous integration instruction. Furthermore, on a delayed posttest we found that students with cohesive beliefs not only sustained their understanding of displaced volume, but, when exposed to reflective integration instruction, actually continued to construct more predictive views following instruction. In contrast, students with dissociated beliefs made no long-term progress independent of the form of instruction.
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