Beobachtungskompetenz beim Forschenden Lernen an einer inklusiven Mittelschule (im Projekt von Dr. Simone Abels) 
Marlies Ehrenweber

This thesis examines pupil’s observation behavior in inquiry learning.

The first chapter deals with the theoretical basics and background knowledge, which are underlying concepts for the empirical research conducted in this thesis. First of all, the concept of inquiry learning is defined, which is an action-oriented model of open learning where pupils are confronted with a practical-oriented approach towards sciences and they are engaged in subsequent working and thinking methods (NES, 2000). Inquiry learning aims at competence development as well as it should function as a support of the pupil’s individual skills. Because of the direct contact with scientific materials which students seem to profit from in inquiry learning and especially in a “Lernwerkstatt” or station learning, this teaching method is suitable equally well for learners with or without special needs (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1994a In: Scruggs, Mastropieri & Okolo, 2008). Subsequently, inquiry learning for learners with special needs is discussed and the reasons why pupils with special needs or disabilities seem to benefit from inquiry learning. Also, possible challenges people have to face in inquiry learning, which occur for example due to pupils’ diverse learning skills, are discussed. Then, an explanation and definition of competences in general and the related competence models (BMBF, 2013) is given. The competence of observing, which represents a central part of inquiry learning and therefore of this thesis, is focused on by explaining the types of observing. After the clarification of the terms “Lernwerkstatt” and station learning, which are forms of inquiry learning the second part of the thesis begins including the description of the empirical research and its results.

The second chapter begins with the empirical research and its outcomes. The study was developed out of the habilitation of Dr. Simone Abels and took place at the Lernwerkstatt Donaustadt, which is an inclusive secondary school in Vienna. Data was collected in three third grade classes through the participatory observation model, which was expanded with observation sheets, video and audio records. The consequent qualitative analysis followed the model of Mayring (2010), of which the particular evaluation methods “Zusammenfassung”, which is to summarize the whole data, and “induktive Kategorienbildung” were chosen as a basis for analysis and interpretation.

A deductive approach cannot be excluded although data analysis took place inductively, therefore, an interplay between inductive and deductive analysis is given. This leads to the following results: Although the practical experiences gained in the course of the empirical research allow for many comparisons to the underlying theory, it is clearly shown in my research that the actual observations in inquiry learning made by learners deviate from some theoretical definitions and assumptions. For example, learners did only observe partially in the sense of scientific observation as they did often develop a concrete research question in the beginning which was to be answered with the help of observations but however, they did only occasionally question the gained knowledge which actually is, according to literature, a crucial characteristic of the scientific and structured method of observation (cf. Chapter 3, sections 3.5 to 3.8).

The research results gained through the empirical research on learners’ observations can be summarized as follows: Pupils observe by watching, examining or touching and feeling, hearing, tasting, or smelling, counting things, measuring or searching for diverse aspects. Furthermore, they often show each other things, put up assumptions and point out diverse observations to each other or exchange about them, which leads to new insights sometimes. Some pupils protocol their observations or keep them in pictures. Also, learners’ comparisons of their knowledge with existing literature or information they find on the internet contribute to the acquisition of new knowledge. The research results gained through the research about observation competences of learners in inquiry learning moreover allow for drawing parallels to the Austrian “Kompetenzmodell Naturwissenschaften” (competence model of science) and the Austrian “Bildungsstandards”. This means that inquiry learning contributes to the development and support of the defined target competences in the Austrian “Bildungsstandards”.

Diplomarbeit (.pdf)