Special Education ETDs

Publication Date



This study investigated the scientific principle, that the level of still water remains horizontal regardless of container tilt, with fourth and eighth grade normal and learning disabled children. Measurements were made of the number of children in each group who knew the concept and of the ability of the "nonknowers" to learn the concept by an adjustment task. A two by two by two factorial design was used. A two-fold criterion of predictive water settings within 5° of horizontal and verbalization of the correct scientific principle was required for S's demonstration of concept knowledge. An adjustment task procedure with feedback then followed for those Ss who had not exhibited knowledge in order to elicit self-discovery. Six angular bottle settings (0°, 30°, 60°, 90 °, 120 °, and 150 °) were used once each on both the pretest and posttest tasks and twice each during the twelve trials of the training period. Verbal responses were assessed by three judges.

Of a total of 65 Ss pretested, 0 of 24 fourth graders and 14 of 41 (34%) eighth graders met the criterion for concept knowledge. Posttest data showed that only one fourth grader and six eighth graders learned the concept by the self-discovery method. Five of these had previously succeeded to criterion on part of the pretest. A significantly greater proportion of males than females and eighth graders than fourth graders met the two-fold criterion of knowledge on the pretest. There was no significant difference in pretest success between the learning disabled and the normal children. Of the Ss who failed the pretest but passed the post test, there was no difference in the proportion of males vs. females, eighth vs. fourth, or normal school achievers vs. learning disabled. Analysis of only the performance task, disregarding the verbal, for the fourth grade group revealed a significant difference between the normal and learning disabled, between the males and females and significant performance improvement from pretest to posttest. Analysis of the performance task of eighth graders revealed a significant effect of academic achievement and a significant pretest--posttest improvement. There was also an interaction between test and disability.

The results are discussed relevant to the effects of age, sex, and academic achievement on acquisition of knowledge of a scientific principle. The findings and implications of apparent ineffectiveness of learning by self-discovery are also discussed.

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Glenn Van Etten

Second Committee Member

Billy Leslie Watson

Third Committee Member

Roger Lee Kroth