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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mechanistic Learning Goals Enhance Elementary Student Understanding and Enjoyment of Heart Lessons.


Biologists, lay adults, and children alike value causal explanations of how biological entities work. Despite this, elementary school science education has historically lacked mechanistic content. In line with recent science education standards, we investigated the effects of mechanistic learning goals on understanding of an in-depth lesson about how the heart works. Children ages 6 to 11 who were given mechanistic learning goals performed better on knowledge assessments of the heart lesson and enjoyed their learning goal more than children who were given a relatively superficial learning goal—to focus on labels. Thus, learning goals orienting children towards mechanistic content during lessons enhance science learning and enjoyment.

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