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The learning design revolves around three main tasks: predict-observe-explain (POE). The Learning Design Sequence is illustrated as follows.

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As part of a doctoral study (Kearney, 2002) students were required to complete 16 POE tasks in the physics domain of vertical and projectile motion. Students select their predictions from a range of multiple-choice options. These options are based on alternative conceptions literature. Students then discuss and record full-text responses for their reasons, observations and explanations (all recorded on the computer’s hard drive). If demonstration outcomes are too open-ended, predictions and observations may alternatively be drawn (on paper or electronically).

Class discussion of tasks should proceed in a session following the students’ use of the computer-based POE tasks to take advantage of the rich data elicited from the students’ engagement with the tasks (for example, many alternative conceptions emerging from their recorded predictions, reasons and even their observations).

Note: If students are inexperienced with the POE strategy, students could just complete the prediction, reason and observation stages of each task before conducting a whole class discussion to facilitate student completion of the explanation stage.


Kearney, M. (2002). Classroom Use of multimedia-supported predict-observe-explain tasks to elicit and promote discussion about students’ physics conceptions. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Perth: Curtin University of Technology.

In each POE task, it is absolutely essential that students are committed to their prediction and reason before observing the demonstration (White & Gunstone, 1992). The multimedia program effectively scaffolds this sequence as students are "forced" to discuss and record their predictions and reasons before they are able to view the video clip. Likewise, the program does not allow users to proceed to the final "explanation" phase of each task until they take the time to discuss and record their observations.

The choice of sequence of the POE tasks is also crucial as the viewing of some demonstrations may "give away" the correct "science view"’ for following tasks. However, related tasks should be placed together to promote coherence in the sequencing of the tasks.


White, R., & Gunstone, R. (1992). Probing understanding. London and New York: The Falmer Press.

Given the relatively small scope of this learning design, all tasks are considered critical.




The CD-ROM is the main resource that students have access to. The program has an introductory tutorial that allows students to become familiar with the program and the QuickTime movie tools that are crucial for making clinical observations of the video-based demonstration outcomes (for example, the step-frame facility is crucial in observing the change of speed of a falling ball in Task One). The focus of the CD-ROM is the 16 POE tasks. Students only have access to the video clip of each scenario once they have discussed and recorded their predictions and reasons.

The first screen of each task introduces students to the task context before asking them to proceed to the next screen, where the problem is presented and students can make their predictions. For complex scenarios, a brief video preview of the scenario (without showing the demonstration outcome!) is given after the introductory screen to help students feel comfortable enough with the contexts to make confident predictions.

Screen shot of the "prediction" screen for Task 12.

The CD-ROM resource is significant on a number of levels:

  • It allows students to engage in the POE tasks in small groups rather than the traditional teacher-led, whole-class environment.
  • The program effectively scaffolds the students’ engagement with the POE strategy, allowing them to proceed through the tasks at their own pace. This includes giving students the ability to go back and edit responses (before viewing the outcome) and take control of the viewing of the demonstrations. This extra autonomy gives students extra opportunities to thoroughly discuss and reflect on their predictions, reasons and observations.
  • The computer environment facilitates the use of digital video, allowing students to view dangerous, difficult, expensive or time-consuming demonstrations not normally possible in the laboratory. Usually, these are real-life, out-of-classroom contexts and reveal interesting science phenomena that under our normal human capabilities would go beyond our temporal, perceptual or experiential limits. Students can use the sophisticated tools available in the digital video medium to make clinical and intricate observations of these scenarios and also replay exact replicas of these demonstrations as many times as they like. Indeed, the observation phase of the POE strategy is crucial as it effectively provides the feedback to users on their prediction. Hence, in terms of the affordances of ICT for the POE strategy, the comprehensive observations made possible by using the digital video medium effectively enhance the quality of feedback on students’ predictions.

The actual POE tasks on the CD-ROM are essential to the learning setting. The tutorial at the start of the program could be replaced by a whole class tutorial. Also, the students’ responses (written and drawn) that are saved as files on the computer could be replaced by pencil and paper worksheets if necessary.




It is desirable that users are familiar with the POE strategy before using the program. The teacher facilitates small group engagement with the tasks and peer collaboration is an essential part of the learning design. Students’ observations of the video-based demonstrations provide feedback on their earlier predictions.

The teacher’s role is crucial in this learning setting. Students’ queries about task contexts are essential to address if they are to confidently make their predictions as a first step in the POE procedure. The nature of the contexts presented in the video-based scenarios is often complex and the teacher’s role in clarifying these contexts and attending to groups’ queries is essential. Students also may need some guidance making sense of their observations and more particularly in the challenging explanation stage where they are asked to reconcile any differences with their predictions. (It is possible for teachers to lead this difficult explanation stage as a whole class discussion.)

Responses to these tasks (saved as text files on each computer) contain a wealth of information about students’ science conceptions. The teacher’s role in analysing this information and identifying common alternative conceptions is a demanding task but essential preparation for the final whole-class discussion and indeed, in the tradition of constructivist pedagogy, a starting point for the planning of subsequent instruction (Driver & Scott, 1996).

Peer collaboration is also crucial in this learning setting. Students could engage in these tasks individually but would miss out on important opportunities to articulate, discuss and reflect on their own and their partner’s conceptions from different perspectives. From a social constructivist view, students working in small groups can test the viability of new knowledge claims with their peers, link these new ideas with personal experience and existing knowledge and negotiate shared understandings.

Finally, the POE strategy itself is a fundamental support structure for this learning setting. Each task is based around the POE strategy and structures the learner’s engagement with the video-based demonstrations. Without it, student interaction with the demonstrations would become passive and videos would become subject to the "mindless clicking" syndrome.


Driver, R., & Scott, P. (1996). Curriculum development as research: A constructivism approach to science curriculum development and teaching. In D.F. Treagust, R. Duit, & B. J. Fraser (Eds.), Improving teaching and learning in science and mathematics (pp. 94–108). New York and London: Teachers College Press.

The POE strategy itself is critical and a fundamental support for these learning tasks. Although detrimental to the learning experience, it is possible for a student to engage in these learning activities without a teacher and without a peer.


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