New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Experimental Activities-Integrated Problem-Based Learning in Biology Classes Promoting SSI and STSE Discussion

Cristina Sousa, Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto. (Portugal)



Learning initiation occured by introducing a problematic situation that included several questions,  designed to trigger learning and promoting discussion focused on water-related challenges faced by plants within a “big picture” correlating global climatic changes and the interactions between Science, Technology, Society and Environment (STSE education).  One  question that promoted discussion of social-scientific issues (SSI) was the possibility of excessive water and beverages intake could lead to death in humans; while STSE-related questions were eliceted by the potential use of reverse osmosis technology in large-scale to produce drinkable water from sea water, in a a global warming scenario, and the consequences of contamination of soils with salts by the use of fertilizers in agriculture to increase yields and of the increase of sea level. 


This action research project was performed with high school students (with age from 14 to 16 years, and a medium age of 15 years) of a portuguese public school, that worked in collaboration in small-groups, of 3 or 4 students (n=20), during 2012/2013 academic year. So the corresponding learning unit was presented in the context of the International Year for Water Cooperation (defined by UNESCO as 2013), the decade Water for life (defined by UNO as 2005-2015) and the decade for Education on Health and Sustainable Development (defined by UNESCO as 2005-20014). 


In this study we used Pelargonium x hortorum, native of South Africa, commonly used as an ornamental plant in Portugal, and the experimental setup consisted in three groups of plants maintained at different salinity conditions. So students were asked to describe the morphological aspect of plants watered with mineral water (commercial avaiable for human consuption) and of plants watered with 12% NaCl and to predicte the aspect of the third group watered with deionized water. 


Our strategy was successufull as we observed that students developed the adequate oral communication, critical thinking, argumentation and colaborative skills as observed in the analysis of the answers povided to the problems and the positive classification obtained in the corresponding lab report of 70% of the students (in which 26% of the students obtained a classification of 86 or higher, out of 100). 


Therefore this constitutes a successful implementation case study of a novel inquiry strategy, integrated experimental activities-PBL, that may constitute an example to facilitate the implementation of active inquiry strategies by other teachers, as well as the basis for future research.




The author is grateful to the Faculty of Sciences’s administration for providing funds for this study. The author is grateful especially to the students and the staff of Escola Secundária Aurélia de Sousa, Portugal. 


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