Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Mark Hackling


This research is a detailed study of students' skills of measuring liquid volume, the decisions they make when planning to collect data and whilst collecting data, and the extent to which they understand the uncertainty associated with the data they collected. These skills and understandings are at the heart of scientific literacy (Duggan & Gall, 1996a). The introduction of the Working Scientifically strand in the Australian national curriculum framework and profile of learning outcome statements for science (Australian Education Council, 1994) illustrates the increased emphasis placed in curriculum documents on investigation skills and scientific literacy. The profile of outcome statements describes a progression in these skills and understandings. This study focused on three groups of three students tram each of Years 8, I 0 and 12 and their performance on two authentic problem solving investigation tasks. The groups of students were observed performing two different investigation tasks that involved the measurement of liquid volume. Video and audio records were made of the groups' use of equipment and dialogue, observations and debriefing interviews provided data for case studies of the groups and how they conducted the investigations. The study revealed that the students have poor skills of planning for investigation work, and seemed to lack any form of planning schema. Many students engaged in no up-front planning and only made planning decisions as they collected their data. Very few of the students conducted replicate trials, and those that did perform replicate trials were unable to give a valid reason for doing so. The skills of measuring liquid volume that were observed, revealed a range of skill levels in all age groups. Many students who cited the correct skills for accurate measurement in debriefing interviews did not demonstrate them whilst conducting the investigation. Students generally displayed a poor understanding of uncertainty. No students averaged results from replicate trials, many did not graph their data, some did not record their data but all were confident of the validity of their conclusions. There was no observed age-based progression of skill for the measurement of liquid volume, with good and poor technique being observed in all age groups. There was a progression, however, in their understanding of uncertainty. Younger students were extremely confident in their conclusions and were unwilling to concede the effect of error on their data whilst the older students did accept that experimental error would affect their data, but did not concede that this effect was great enough to affect the validity of their conclusions.