Effects of Modeling Instruction on Descriptive Writing and Observational Skills in Middle School

  • Do-Yong ParkEmail author
  • Cindy Logsdon


Before science can be completely understood, one of the fundamental skills that must be developed is observation. Improving descriptive writing and investigating students’ observational skills in the classroom is the purpose of this study. The study was designed to determine if such skills, practiced through modeling activities, serve as a way to improve students’ descriptive directional writing skills. Participating in this study were two groups of seventh (N = 12) and eighth graders (N = 12) at a middle school in the Midwest, USA. The students participating in the study each received a set of materials to construct an item (a 3D object) in an isolated area within the room for privacy. After constructing the item, the student was to write a set of directions on how to construct the item that they had made. A second student was then given the same set of materials along with the first student’s instructions on how to construct it. This activity was repeated four times over a 4-week period. Results indicated that over time students made a significant improvement in their descriptive writing skills and observational skills. Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the characteristics of middle school students’ skills and knowledge of descriptive writing and observation.

Key words

descriptive writing modeling instruction observational skills 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, T. (2007). Teacher’s toolkit: Methods for success as a middle school science teacher. Science Scope, pp 16–18.Google Scholar
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989). Science for all Americans. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  3. Clements, D. H. (1999). Concrete manipulatives and concrete ideas. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Education, 1, 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education (6th edition). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Cox, J. (2006). A unique demonstration model of DNA. Journal of Chemistry Education, 83, 13–19.Google Scholar
  6. D’Amico, J. & Gallaway, K. (2008). Differentiated instruction for the middle school math teacher: Activities and strategies for an inclusive classroom. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Gravemeijer, K. E. (1991). An instruction–theoretical reflection on the use of manipulatives. In L. Streefland (Ed.), Realistic mathematics education in primary school (pp. 57–76). Utrecht, The Netherlands: Freudenthal Institute, Utrecht University. p. 59.Google Scholar
  8. Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Haury, D. L. (2002). Fundamental skills in science: Observation. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education.Google Scholar
  10. Hickson, J. & Baltimore, M. (1996). Gender related learning style patterns of middle school pupils. School Psychology International, 17, 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jablon, P. (2006). Writing through inquiry. Science Scope. pp. 18–20.Google Scholar
  12. Kosso, P. (1992). Reading the book of nature: An introduction to the philosophy of science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Krontiris-Litowitz, J. (2003). Using manipulatives to improve learning in the undergraduate neurophysiology curriculum. Advances in Physiology Education, 27, 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Manery, R. (2003). Cosmic oranges: Observation and inquiry through descriptive writing and art. ReadWriteThink, 13. International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English.Google Scholar
  15. Merriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  16. National Research Council (1996). National science education standards. Washington, D.C: National Academic Press.Google Scholar
  17. National Research Council (2010). Exploring intersection of science education and 21st century skills—A workshop summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  18. Peters, E. (2006). Tried and true: Write it, do it. Science Scope. pp. 11–13.Google Scholar
  19. Sowell, E. J. (1989). Effects of manipulative materials in mathematics instruction. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 20, 498–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Steele, M. (2005). Science sampler: Teaching science to middle school students with learning problems. Science Scope, pp. 50–51.Google Scholar
  21. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Worsham, S. (2007). Science sampler: You can learn a lot from your dog. Science Scope, 31(3), 6–12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© National Science Council, Taiwan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Teaching and LearningIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA

Personalised recommendations