• Mzenzi S. Masuku Research Officer, Examinations Council of Swaziland, Research and Policy Development Department, Swaziland
  • Benson B. Simelane Science Teacher, Ngwane Park High School, Mathematics & Science Department, Swaziland



Scientific Reasoning, Oral Questioning, Formative Assessment, Physical Science

Abstract [English]

Scientific reasoning, though not explicitly taught in classrooms, is promoted as a major goal for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education at all levels, worldwide. Literature also indicates that the time spent by learners explaining and justifying their ideas strongly correlates with learning improvement. In Swaziland, however, reports from school science inspectors and school leaving examiners point to weak evidence of scientific reasoning skills from school-based and high-stake examinations. This contradicts the main education goal at this level – producing learners who can use science phenomena awareness for reasoning through diverse life contexts. The study was conceived within the interplay between cognitive and sociocultural theories of constructivism. It focuses on how senior secondary school Physical Science teachers use informal formative assessment (IFA), and how the assessments so used support scientific reasoning. Through the qualitative inquiry approach a multiple case study design was used where four teachers in the Manzini Region were purposively sampled and their lessons observed. The data were then analysed through content analysis and Furtak, Harding, Beinbrech, Shavelson, and Shemwell (2008)’s analytical framework. The study revealed that teachers initiated learner-centred dialogues to address misconceptions and ask further clarification questions. Practical work and contingency based oral questions generated a reach variety of scientific reasoning levels while cases where teachers treated none response moments by supplying answers generated the least reasoning levels. All in all, by diligently using IFA to support learning, teachers realised opportunities for assisting learners migrate from concrete operational to formal thinking levels.


Download data is not yet available.


Alexander, R. (2006). Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk. Cambridge: Dialogos.

Arnett, J. (2010). Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach (3rd ed.). New York: Pearson.

Bao et al. (2009). Learning and Scientific Reasoning. Science, 323, 586-587. DOI:

Bell, B., & Cowie, B. (2001). The Characteristics of Formative Assessment in Science Education. Science Education, 536-553. DOI:

Bhim, C., & Aniruddha, C. (2013). Misconceptions in Chemistry - Its Identification and Remedial Measures. Germany: Lap Lambert.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the Theory of Formative Assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21, 5-31. DOI:

Brookhart. (2008). How to give Effective Feedback to your Students. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Chittleborough, G., & Treagust, D. (2007). The Modelling Ability of Non-Major Chemistry Students and their Understanding of the Sub-Atomic Level. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 8(3), 274-292. DOI:

Cope, B. (2013). Science in Writing: Learning Scientific Argument in Principle and Practice. E-Learning and Digital Media, 420-441. DOI:

Davoudi, M., & Sadeghi, N. (2015). A Systematic Review of Research on Questioning as a Higher Level Cognition Strategy. English Language Teaching, 8(10), 76-90. DOI:

Dlamini, M. (2012). Formative Assessment Practices of Secondary School History Teachers in Swaziland and Their Contribution to Learners Understanding. Kwaluseni: University of Swaziland.

ECESWA. (2008 - 2018). SGCSE Physical Science Examiners' Report. Ezulwini: Ministry of Educatio and Training.

Furtak, E., Hardy, I., Beinbrech, T., Shavelson, R., & Shemwell, J. (2008). A Framework for Analysing Reasoning is Science Classroom Discourse. American Educational Research Association Conference (pp. 1-40). New York: AERA.

Gamlem, S., & Munthe, E. (2014). In Search of a Useful Definition of Mastery. Education Leadership, 19-23.

Gillies, R., Nichols, K., Burgh, G., & Haynes, M. (2014). Primary Students' Scientific Reasoning and Discourse During Cooperative Inquiry - Based Science Activities. International Journal of Educational Research, 63, 127-140. DOI:

Henning, E., Renburg, & Smit. (2004). Finding Your Way in Qualitative Research. New York: Van Schaik.

Ibrahim, B., Ding, L. M., & Stammen, A. (2016). Scientific Reasoning: Theory Evidence Coordination in Physics-based and non - physics-based tasks. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 93-105. DOI:

Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. (1958, June). The Growth of Logical Thinking: From Childhood to Adolescence. New York: Basic Books, Inc. DOI:

Kelly, V. (2007). Alternative Assessment Strategies within a Context-based Science Teaching and Learning Approach in Secondary Schools in Swaziland. Cape Town: University of the Western Cape.

Kippers, W., Schildkamp, K., & Poortman, C. (2016). The Use of Formative Assessment by Teachers in Secondary Education in the Netherlands. Washington, DC: AERA.

Kuhn, D. (2001). How Do People Know? Psychological Science, 12(1), 1-8. DOI:

Levine, D., & Linn, M. (1977). Scientific Reasoning Ability in Adolescence: Theoretical Viewpoints and Educational Implications. Advancing Eduation through Science-Oriented Programs. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1-38. DOI:

Marope, M. (2010). The Education System in Swaziland - Training and Skills Development for Shared Growth and Competitiveness. Washington. DC: The World Bank.

Masuku, M., Oloyede, O., & Kelly, V. L. (2017). Teachers' Use of Formative Assessment in Senior Secondary School Chemistry Learning in Swaziland. Kwaluseni: University of Swaziland.

Ruiz-Primo. (2011). Informal Formative Assessment: The role of instructional dialogues. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 15-24. DOI:

Ruiz-primo, M., & Furtak, E. (2007). Exploring Teaachers' Informal Formative Assessment practices and students' understanding in the context of Scientific Inquiry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(1), 57-84. DOI:

Sampson, V., & Blanchard, M. (2012). Science Teachers and Scientific Argumentation: Trends in Views and Practice. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(9), 1122-1148. DOI:

Schumm, J., & Post, S. (1997). Executive Learning. Successful Strategies for College Reading and Studying. New Jersey: Prentice.

Sheir, A., Khalk, V., & Babawy, E. (2015). Oral Questioning Technique for Developing Critical Thinking Skills in EFL Classroom. Educational Sciences Journal, 1-23.

Sheir, A., Khalk, W., & E.F, N. (2014). Oral Questioning Technique for Developing Critical Thinking in EFL Classrooms. Educational Sciences Journal, 1-23.

Shirley, M. (2009). A Model of Formative Assessment Practice in Secondary Science Classrooms Using and Audience Response System. Ohio: Ohio State University.

Stiggins, R., Grisworld, M., & Wikelund, K. (1989). Measuring Thinking Skills Throgh Classroom Assessment. Journal of Educational Measurement, 26(3), 1745-3984. DOI:

Tajudin, N., & Chinnappan, M. (2017). Relationship between Scientific Reasoning Skills and Mathematical Achievement Among Malaysian Students. International Journal of Contemporary Applied Sciences, 4(3), 107-123.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Zimmerman, C. (2000). The Development of Scientific Reasoning Skills. Developmental Review, 20, 99-149. DOI:




How to Cite