Students' design of a biometric procedure in upper secondary school

  • Patricia Marzin
  • Erica de Vries


Making the connection between science and technology might be important for students to learn to identify and solve problems and to acquire scientific knowledge and skills. The research reported in this article concerned the development of a design situation in a science classroom and the study of students performing in this situation. More specifically, the setting involved students’ design of a measurement procedure as a way of attaining understanding of the underlying scientific concepts. In fact, at higher secondary level, the classical experimental procedure of measuring facial angle is employed within the topic of human evolution to find out to which species a given human cranium belongs. At the same time, designing a procedure, instead of just executing it, is thought to entail higher odds for attaining teleological understanding. The development of the learning situation involved pursuing parallels between the expert design task as described in the literature and the assignment given to students. We proceeded through step-wise development of the learning situation that was successively tested out in the classroom. Our analysis of the student-devised procedures revealed three issues regarding the graphical representation of angles, the reproducibility of the points and the communicational demands of the situation. Students used both prior knowledge (e.g. about evolution), and new knowledge about cranium anatomy and angles. They also exhibited new experimental skills like anticipating each experimental action. Such cognitive tasks which are at the origin of students’ activity make the situation approximate the goals of laboratory work by distancing it from the simple execution of a series of steps. Future research could be directed towards further exploring the benefits of an approach that combines essential characteristics of science and technology.


Experimental procedure Palaeontology Design External representations 



We would like to thank the teachers and researcher who worked with us: Daniel Devallois (lycée Présentation de Marie), Réjane Monod-Ansaldi (lycée Claude Bernard), and Eric Sanchez (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique). The studies were conducted within the CoPEX project supported by the French ministry of education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grenoble Informatics LaboratoryUniversity Joseph Fourier-Grenoble 1Grenoble cedexFrance
  2. 2.Laboratory of Educational SciencesUniversity Pierre-Mendès-France-Grenoble 2Grenoble cedex 9France

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