Unintended knowledge learnt in primary science practical lessons

Jisun Park, Ian Abrahams, Jinwoong Song

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This study explored the different kinds of unintended learning in primary school practical science lessons. In this study, unintended learning has been defined as student learning that was found to occur that was not included in the teachers learning objectives for that specific lesson. A total of 22 lessons, taught by five teachers in Korean primary schools with 10- to 12-year-old students, were audio-and video recorded. Pre-lesson interviews with the teachers were conducted to ascertain their intended learning objectives. Students were asked to write short memos after the lesson about what they learnt. Post-lesson interviews with students and teachers were undertaken. What emerged was that there were three types of knowledge that students learnt unintentionally: factual knowledge gained by phenomenon-based reasoning, conceptual knowledge gained by relation- or model-based reasoning, and procedural knowledge acquired by practice. Most unintended learning found in this study fell into the factual knowledge and only a few cases of conceptual knowledge were found. Cases of both explicit procedural knowledge and implicit procedural knowledge were found. This study is significant in that it suggests how unintended learning in practical work can be facilitated as an educative opportunity for meaningful learning by exploring what and how students learnt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2528-2549
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016


  • Unintended learning
  • factual knowledge
  • conceptual knowledge
  • procedural knowledge
  • practical work

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