The Role of a Science Story, Activities, and Dialogue Modeled on Philosophy for Children in Teaching Basic Science Process Skills to Fifth Graders

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Maughn Gregory

Committee Member

Tamara Lucas

Committee Member

Jacalyn Willis

Committee Member

Mark Weinstein

Committee Member

Michael Pritchard


This study was an application of Philosophy for Children pedagogy to science education. It was designed to answer the question, What roles do a science story (Harry Discovers Science), multi-sensorial activities designed to accompany the story, and classroom dialogue associated with the story—all modeled on the Philosophy for Children curriculum—play in the learning processes of a class of fifth graders with regard to the basic science process skills of classification, observation, and inference? To answer the question, I collected qualitative data as I carried out a participatory study in which I taught science to fifth graders at an international, bilingual private religious school in Brasilia, Brazil for a period of one semester. Twenty-one (n = 21) children participated in the study, 10 females and 11 males, who came from a predominantly middle and upper class social background. Data were collected through student interviews, student class reflection sheets, written learning assessments, audiotapes of all class sessions, including whole-class and small-class group discussions, and a videotape of one class session. Some of the key findings were that the story, activities and dialogue facilitated the children's learning in a number of ways. The story modeled the performance of classification, observation and inference skills for the children as well as reflection on the meaning of inference. The majority of the students identified with the fictional characters, particularly regarding traits such as cleverness and inquisitiveness, and with the learning context of the story. The multi-sensorial activities helped children learn observation and inference skills as well as dialogue. Dialogue also helped children self-correct and build upon each other's ideas. Some students developed theories about how ideal dialogue should work. In spite of the inherent limitations of qualitative and teacher research studies, as well as the limitations of this particular study, and despite the fact that there is a need for further research to confirm the transferability of findings, this study both supports and expands to the domain of basic science process skills the claim that Philosophy for Children helps students develop thinking skills.


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