We designed a course based on inquiry learning using WISE, an online inquiry-based science environment platform, and the 5E instructional model. This article summarizes guidelines used in designing the course, analyses of student needs and school environment, setting of course objectives, modification of materials, and evaluation of student performance. A “Healthy Life” course based on those guidelines was implemented, along with a teacher-training workshop, in two schools, and pretests and posttests were administered to evaluate the achievements of the project participants. The results showed that the participants had constructed scientific concepts and improved their level of cognitive knowledge. An efficiency questionnaire and semistructured interviews demonstrated the effectiveness of the course, thus indicating that we should share the guidelines and features of the Healthy Life course with other course designers and teachers.

Introduction

The WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment; https://wise.berkeley.edu/) is an online science-learning platform developed by TELS (Technology Enhanced Learning in Science). The environment consists of abundant curriculum topics and provides K–12 students with opportunities to explore scientific problems in real-life scenarios and to construct concepts (Williams et al., 2004). Here, we describe how a school-based inquiry course was designed and implemented using the WISE resources in a Chinese high school.

The 5E instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate) has been found to help students construct scientific concepts and correct misconceptions. Popular worldwide, the 5E model is a common way for students to engage in inquiry-based learning (Jun et al., 2013). Accordingly, the 5E learning cycle can be used in designing an inquiry curriculum that incorporates use of the WISE materials.

We integrated the WISE materials with implementation of the 5E learning-cycle model. Our project was focused on the following questions:

  1. Which WISE topics meet the needs of our students?

  2. What is the best way to incorporate the WISE activities into the 5E learning cycle within the curriculum of a school-based course?

  3. Is the newly designed curriculum that integrates the WISE materials effective and suitable for high school students engaging in action research?

Designing the Course

An Analysis of School Resources & Student Needs

Science education involves students identifying real-life scientific questions and attempting to resolve or answer those questions using the knowledge they obtain from school. To do this, students must possess the skill of inquiry and the ability to apply their knowledge to real-life situations. Many topics included in WISE – such as “Antibiotics: Will They Work?” – are topics in which students learn principles of science and engage in methods that mimic reality by examining pictures, interpreting tables, reading stories, and playing games. Teachers who participated in this project selected four topics from WISE – antibiotics, asthma, transgenic production, and water quality – that served as the foundation for a one-semester course titled “Healthy Life.” All four topics are popular and controversial issues in China, and Chinese students often face problems related to these topics, such as air pollution and asthma.

The premise behind the design of the course is to select topics that are relevant to the students’ own life experiences. The more relevant the course content is to the lives of the students, the greater the students’ interest and desire to engage in the inquiry-based activities.

Setting Course Objectives

In the United States, Project 2061 is a landmark educational reform project. Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 2009) lists the Project 2061 learning goals for K–12 students by grade level, and the WISE materials conform to these goals. With respect to Chinese biology standards and AAAS standards, we established the objectives for a new course, Healthy Life, which was created using WISE materials. The instructional objectives referring to the AAAS standards and Chinese high school biology standards for “Antibiotics: Will They Work?” are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.
Instructional goals for “Antibiotics: Will They Work?”
PeriodItemStandard Content
1 Instructional objectives 1. Briefly describe the developmental history of antibiotics and explain the reasons for the domestic abuse of antibiotics.
2. List examples of common antibiotic drugs.
3. Identify pathogens of common infectious diseases and identify the antibiotic used to treat the specific diseases.
4. Pursue scientific facts in real life and become familiar with recognizing and noting specific phenomena and data. 
Chinese standards M1* Understand scientific inquiry and develop scientific inquiry skills.
M10.2.1 List common bacterial infections.
M10.5.1 Name some commonly used antibiotic medicines and their functions. 
AAAS standards 1A/H3d** In matters that can be investigated in a scientific way, evidence for the value of a scientific approach is given by improving the ability of scientists to offer reliable explanations and make accurate predictions.
1C/H3a Progress in science and invention depends heavily on what else is happening in society.
3B/H2 The value of any given technology may be different for different groups of people and at different points in time. 
2 Instructional objectives 1. Describe the ways and features of bacterial fission.
2. Explain the relationship between variation and natural selection.
3. Briefly describe the reason why bacteria are resistant to certain medicines.
4. Note abuse of antibiotics in real life. 
Chinese standards M7.4.6 List examples of variation.
M8.1.2 Describe the main characteristics of the bacteria and their relationship to human life.
H2.4.2 Illustrate characteristics and reasons for genetic mutation.
H2.6.1 Illustrate the main contents of the modern theory of evolution. 
AAAS standards 5B/M1a In some types of organisms, all of the genes come from a single parent.
5F/H3 Natural selection provides the following mechanism for evolution: Some variation in heritable characteristics exists within every species; some of these characteristics give individuals an advantage over others in surviving and reproducing; and the advantaged offspring, in turn, is more likely than others to survive and reproduce. As a result, the proportion of individuals that have advantageous characteristics will increase. 
3 Instructional objectives 1. Note and correct the antibiotic abuse in real life.
2. Describe how to properly use antibiotics using scientific evidence.
3. Make decisions based on scientific knowledge in real life. 
Chinese standards M10.5.2 Provide an overview of common sense regarding the use of medicines.
H5.3.5 Briefly describe the proper use of antibiotics. 
AAAS standards 6E/H3b Conditions now are very different from the conditions when the species evolved, and some of these differences may not be advantageous for human health 
PeriodItemStandard Content
1 Instructional objectives 1. Briefly describe the developmental history of antibiotics and explain the reasons for the domestic abuse of antibiotics.
2. List examples of common antibiotic drugs.
3. Identify pathogens of common infectious diseases and identify the antibiotic used to treat the specific diseases.
4. Pursue scientific facts in real life and become familiar with recognizing and noting specific phenomena and data. 
Chinese standards M1* Understand scientific inquiry and develop scientific inquiry skills.
M10.2.1 List common bacterial infections.
M10.5.1 Name some commonly used antibiotic medicines and their functions. 
AAAS standards 1A/H3d** In matters that can be investigated in a scientific way, evidence for the value of a scientific approach is given by improving the ability of scientists to offer reliable explanations and make accurate predictions.
1C/H3a Progress in science and invention depends heavily on what else is happening in society.
3B/H2 The value of any given technology may be different for different groups of people and at different points in time. 
2 Instructional objectives 1. Describe the ways and features of bacterial fission.
2. Explain the relationship between variation and natural selection.
3. Briefly describe the reason why bacteria are resistant to certain medicines.
4. Note abuse of antibiotics in real life. 
Chinese standards M7.4.6 List examples of variation.
M8.1.2 Describe the main characteristics of the bacteria and their relationship to human life.
H2.4.2 Illustrate characteristics and reasons for genetic mutation.
H2.6.1 Illustrate the main contents of the modern theory of evolution. 
AAAS standards 5B/M1a In some types of organisms, all of the genes come from a single parent.
5F/H3 Natural selection provides the following mechanism for evolution: Some variation in heritable characteristics exists within every species; some of these characteristics give individuals an advantage over others in surviving and reproducing; and the advantaged offspring, in turn, is more likely than others to survive and reproduce. As a result, the proportion of individuals that have advantageous characteristics will increase. 
3 Instructional objectives 1. Note and correct the antibiotic abuse in real life.
2. Describe how to properly use antibiotics using scientific evidence.
3. Make decisions based on scientific knowledge in real life. 
Chinese standards M10.5.2 Provide an overview of common sense regarding the use of medicines.
H5.3.5 Briefly describe the proper use of antibiotics. 
AAAS standards 6E/H3b Conditions now are very different from the conditions when the species evolved, and some of these differences may not be advantageous for human health 
*

“M” denotes middle school standard and “H” denotes high school standard; the first number refers to the chapter, the second number represents the lesson, and the last number denotes the number of the item in the lesson.

**

The letters before the slash represent the chapter and the grade, while the letters after the slash refer to the item number in the chapter.

By the end of the one-semester course, students should be able to

  • explain the basic principles related to biological science and bodily health,

  • participate in science inquiry and find and understand scientific concepts using inquiry-based skills, and

  • experience the role of science in real life and solve problems using scientific knowledge.

Localize & Modify Course Content Consistent with the 5E Instructional Model

WISE is not just an educational resource library, but also a learning platform where students can get information, provide responses, and construct concepts. Every WISE topic consists of many steps, including demonstrations, games, imitations, debates, displays, and other engaging activities. To design a series of learning activities in accordance with the 5E instructional model (Table 2), WISE topic contents must be localized and modified. The changes help students as they construct concepts using various inquiry activities based on the WISE program.

Table 2.
Course design for the teaching of a unit on antibiotics using the 5E learning cycle.
PeriodStageActivities
Engage 1. Watch a video about the discovery of antibiotics. 
2. View display of common antigens and their relationship with antibiotics. 
Explore 3. Scenario: Why antibiotics do not work on Yang's disease 
Explain 1. Watch a video about E. coli in penicillin. 
2. Seal game: Variations in bacteria and their relationships with antibiotics. 
Elaborate 3. Role play: What should I do with antibiotics? 
Evaluate 1. Write a rule regarding the use of antibiotics in the family. 
2. Share your study with classmates. 
PeriodStageActivities
Engage 1. Watch a video about the discovery of antibiotics. 
2. View display of common antigens and their relationship with antibiotics. 
Explore 3. Scenario: Why antibiotics do not work on Yang's disease 
Explain 1. Watch a video about E. coli in penicillin. 
2. Seal game: Variations in bacteria and their relationships with antibiotics. 
Elaborate 3. Role play: What should I do with antibiotics? 
Evaluate 1. Write a rule regarding the use of antibiotics in the family. 
2. Share your study with classmates. 

Consistent with the 5E model, various forms of localization and modification were used in the development of this course. The following are examples with respect to “Antibiotics: Will They Work?” First, the history of the discovery of penicillin was introduced at the beginning of the lesson, that is, in the Engagement phase of the 5E model. In this step, students acquired background information about antibiotics and recalled their previous cognitive knowledge about antibiotics and/or penicillin. Then, in the Explore phase, an antibiotic-abuse scenario was presented to students before they studied the principles of bacterial accumulation with medicine use, which encouraged the exploration of the scientific principles behind the phenomenon. In this phase, students had more opportunities to learn how to construct a concept on their own. As the students responded to questions regarding the abuse of antibiotics, their misconceptions were often revealed. It was also necessary to provide students with Chinese reading materials in place of the English versions. Thus, redesigning the inquiry activities was necessary to make them more logical and to align them with student learning. In the next phase, Elaborate, students had to devise a rule with respect to family medicine to demonstrate their growth and achievement in the course. Finally, in the “share your study” step, students discussed and shared their learning experience, including their answers to questions and their decisions. The Evaluate phase could be completed online. The 5E learning-cycle model was useful as an outline or framework to arrange learning activities, as shown in Figure 1. All teaching units included a number of activities that became progressively more challenging, and each topic incorporated a complete 5E learning cycle.

Figure 1.

Course framework for the Healthy Life curriculum. The steps marked with an asterisk require the support of the Internet, whereas all the other steps can be carried out in different ways, even without a computer.

Figure 1.

Course framework for the Healthy Life curriculum. The steps marked with an asterisk require the support of the Internet, whereas all the other steps can be carried out in different ways, even without a computer.

Some online activities could instead be “offline.” That is, students could answer the questions using small sticky notes and place their responses on the blackboard, thus displaying their own “concept formation chain.” In addition, some online games could be modified into classroom activities, using visual aids and models created by the teachers.

Evaluate Student Achievement

The evaluation of achievement should align with the teaching objectives of the course. Evaluating student achievement promotes students’ ability to concentrate on learning throughout the course. However, there are many ways to evaluate the learning achievement of students more effectively than the traditional evaluation instruments such as pencil-and-paper tests (Ooms, 2005). Online Note is a convenient tool in WISE that can be used as a process assessment; students can answer questions related to the concepts learned in the unit after completing every activity. The questions may appear again later at the end of another activity or unit, and students’ answers may differ from those given initially. Through this process, students’ misconceptions can be exposed and form a clear chain of changes as students’ concepts develop over time. Teachers can track the chain and, by doing so, track student performance and achievement with respect to learning the principles of science. It is not necessary that students’ answers are correct from beginning to end. Rather, what is important is the changes that occur in students’ thinking as they process the information they have learned. In addition to the process evaluation, students may be required to participate in a role-play or a debate at the end of the course. At the same time, teachers also take note of students’ behaviors and grade them summatively.

Students are more accepting of the various forms of evaluation provided by this framework because it allows them to examine their performance as it relates to their learning and skill development.

Curriculum Implementation & Test

The Healthy Life curriculum was implemented in two secondary schools in Beijing and at a teacher training workshop in Shanghai. In this way, the course's effectiveness and applicability could be assessed through its implementation. Furthermore, because the design of the WISE curriculum combined with the 5E learning cycle was aligned with national and local curricula, it was applicable and available for use by science teachers throughout China. This study used action research, compared the differences between before- and after-course implementation through analysis of variance, and was focused especially on concept change and skill development among the subjects.

Subjects

The subjects included 60 tenth-grade students, ages 15–17, who attended one of two classes in a high school (hereafter “No. 1”) in Beijing. None of the students had taken general senior biology. One class was randomly assigned to the experimental group (n = 28: 14 boys and 14 girls), while the other class constituted the control group (n = 32: 10 boys and 22 girls). Additionally, there were 92 eighth-grade students, ages 13–14, who attended one of two classes in a middle school (hereafter “No. 2”) in Beijing. They had taken one year of general junior biology. The experimental class (n = 47: 36 boys and 11 girls) and control class (n = 45: 34 boys and 11 girls) were both “natural classes,” which means they were not grouped according to students’ interest, scores, or gender. All the students chose to take one of the two classes, and then the researcher assigned one class as the experimental class and the other as the control class. Finally, a teacher training workshop in Shanghai (hereafter “No. 3”) comprised 34 teachers who taught science in primary (n = 12) and secondary (n = 22) schools; these teachers were instructed as a class to implement the curriculum.

Tools

Three sets of pretest and posttest papers were created, respectively, for subjects from schools No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. The test papers consisted of two types of questions: multiple-choice, which examined the subjects’ science concepts; and short-answer, which reflected subjects’ level of cognition in relation to knowledge and attitudes about science problems and phenomena. Subjects were able to express their ideas based on past experiences in short-answer responses to science-based scenarios, which, in turn, exposed their misconceptions and their current levels of skill development. To track pretest and posttest questions, a two-dimensional table coded question difficulty and range and tested results using the chi-square test in SPSS version 18.0 (SPSS, Chicago, IL). There were not significant differences (P > 0.5) between pretests and posttests (Table 3), which demonstrated the validity of the test.

Table 3.
Chi-square test on differences in difficulty and range between pretests and posttests.
School groupDifference of Range (P)Difference of Difficulty (P)
No. 1 0.829 0.553 
No. 2 0.963 0.917 
No. 3 1.000 0.615 
School groupDifference of Range (P)Difference of Difficulty (P)
No. 1 0.829 0.553 
No. 2 0.963 0.917 
No. 3 1.000 0.615 

When subjects completed a topic or unit, as well as when they completed the course, they evaluated the difficulty, comprehensibility, participation, and interest in the course via a questionnaire. The questionnaires for the various subjects were the same. There were six questions in which the item choices represented the subjects’ attitudes regarding the course.

Ten volunteer students from school No.1 were interviewed at the end of the course. A semistructured interview outline was developed before the interview, which included questions about instructional styles, course content, changes in science concepts, and development of thinking patterns.

Treatment

Due to limited time and teaching conditions, the Healthy Life curriculum was implemented in two schools as an optional course. Three topics – antibiotics, asthma, and transgenic production – were completed at school No. 1. Only the unit on antibiotics was completed at school No. 2. (School No. 3 included two units: antibiotics and water quality.) The experimental classes in No. 1 and No. 2 were taught by the same teacher from our team, and every class period was 50 minutes in duration. Being the same science course and covering the same selected topics, the control classes were basically the same in terms of teaching contents, the distinct difference being the teaching strategies used. The Healthy Life teaching strategy implemented in the experimental classes was in accordance with the framework presented here: online inquiry, cooperative learning, and role-playing supported student participation in active learning, in alignment with the 5E model. The control classes used questioning and lecture.

Before the course was initiated, subjects were required to complete, independently, a timed (40-minute) pretest. Subjects were also required to complete, independently, a timed (40-minute) posttest at the end of the course. Moreover, students completed, anonymously, a questionnaire after every topic/unit and at the end of the course. Finally, a semistructured interview was administered at the end of the course: 10 students from No. 1, individually and in groups of 2–3, with consideration of prerequisites supported in this school, responded to questions about their understanding of teaching strategies, course content, and the application/relevance of what they had learned to real-life situations. From their statements, researchers were better able to understand the thinking chain with respect to knowledge, decision making, action, and healthy living.

Results & Analysis

In the pretests and posttests, the questions examined the different levels of cognition among the students. “Knowledge” and “comprehension” constitute the “low level of cognition”; “application” and above constitute the “high level of cognition.” To demonstrate the effectiveness of the course, t-tests of the improvement in subjects’ scores were made for schools No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 (Tables 47).

Table 4.
Pretest differences between experimental and control groups in two schools.
Question TypeNo. 1No. 2
Experimental (Mean ± SD)Control (Mean ± SD)PExperimental (Mean ± SD)Control (Mean ± SD)P
Low level of cognition 35.25 ± 1.586 33.56 ± 1.216 0.396 13.91 ± 0.392 9.43 ± 0.711 0.000** 
High level of cognition 11 ± 0.953 7.81 ± 0.831 0.014* 9.32 ± 0.711 4.95 ± 0.455 0.000** 
Total 46.25 ± 2.067 41.38 ± 1.475 0.055 23.26 ± 0.737 14.43 ± 0.889 0.000** 
Question TypeNo. 1No. 2
Experimental (Mean ± SD)Control (Mean ± SD)PExperimental (Mean ± SD)Control (Mean ± SD)P
Low level of cognition 35.25 ± 1.586 33.56 ± 1.216 0.396 13.91 ± 0.392 9.43 ± 0.711 0.000** 
High level of cognition 11 ± 0.953 7.81 ± 0.831 0.014* 9.32 ± 0.711 4.95 ± 0.455 0.000** 
Total 46.25 ± 2.067 41.38 ± 1.475 0.055 23.26 ± 0.737 14.43 ± 0.889 0.000** 

Note: **P < 0.01

The pretest scores were analyzed to compare the differences between the start points of the experimental group and the control group. As presented in Table 4, there were significant differences between the two groups in school No. 2. These differences are attributable to the fact that students in the experimental classes had completed a unit of study on antibiotics just a week before course implementation. To analyze the results of the course scientifically, an independent-sample t-test of the improvement in test scores was applied.

After the treatment, the improvement of the experimental class significantly exceeded that of the control class (P < 0.05) in school No. 1. This result indicates that the Healthy Life curriculum based on the WISE program can improve student cognition; there was sufficient evidence to suggest that the students in the experimental class attempted to respond to scientific controversies and put forward their own ideas and solutions. The variations with respect to the “high level of cognition” item, as assessed through short-answer responses, were greater than those related to the “low level of cognition” (see Table 5). This is likely because students could more freely express their ideas and problem-solving strategies.

Table 5.
Results (means ± SD) of independent-sample t-test of experimental and control group improvement in school No. 1.
Question TypeExperimentalControlP
PretestPosttestVariationPretestPosttestVariation
Low level of cognition 35.25 ± 1.586 54.54 ± 1.225 19.29 ± 1.721 33.56 ± 1.216 42.94 ± 1.931 9.37 ± 1.983 0.000** 
High level of cognition 11 ± 0.953 33.61 ± 0.913 22.61 ± 1.331 7.81 ± 0.831 12.13 ± 1.145 4.31 ± 1.230 0.000** 
Total 46.25 ± 2.067 87.43 ± 1.772 41.12 ± 2.262 41.38 ± 1.475 55.06 ± 2.726 13.69 ± 2.537 0.000** 
Question TypeExperimentalControlP
PretestPosttestVariationPretestPosttestVariation
Low level of cognition 35.25 ± 1.586 54.54 ± 1.225 19.29 ± 1.721 33.56 ± 1.216 42.94 ± 1.931 9.37 ± 1.983 0.000** 
High level of cognition 11 ± 0.953 33.61 ± 0.913 22.61 ± 1.331 7.81 ± 0.831 12.13 ± 1.145 4.31 ± 1.230 0.000** 
Total 46.25 ± 2.067 87.43 ± 1.772 41.12 ± 2.262 41.38 ± 1.475 55.06 ± 2.726 13.69 ± 2.537 0.000** 

Note: **P < 0.01

In school No. 2, the improvement of the experimental group with respect to the “low level of learning” outcome was significantly less than that of the control group, a finding that seemed unreasonable (see Table 6). We cannot explain this unexpected result; some deeper research can be implemented in the future. However, there was significant improvement in the experimental class (Table 6), in accord with the aims of the research. Moreover, the improvement in the high level of cognition in the experimental class of No. 2 was more significant than that of the control class.

Table 6.
Independent sample T test of experimental and control group improvement in school No.2.
Question TypeExperimentalControlP
PretestPosttestVariationPretestPosttestVariation
Low level of cognition 13.91 ± 0.392 17.11 ± 0.569 3.19 ± 0.641 9.43 ± 0.711 14.57 ± 0.363 5.14 ± 0.534 0.035* 
High level of cognition 9.32 ± 0.711 15.60 ± 0.922 6.28 ± 0.887 4.95 ± 0.455 6.64 ± 0.485 1.69 ± 0.460 0.000** 
Total 23.26 ± 0.737 32.68 ± 1.261 9.43 ± 1.148 14.43 ± 0.889 21.02 ± 0.708 6.60 ± 0.813 0.048* 
Question TypeExperimentalControlP
PretestPosttestVariationPretestPosttestVariation
Low level of cognition 13.91 ± 0.392 17.11 ± 0.569 3.19 ± 0.641 9.43 ± 0.711 14.57 ± 0.363 5.14 ± 0.534 0.035* 
High level of cognition 9.32 ± 0.711 15.60 ± 0.922 6.28 ± 0.887 4.95 ± 0.455 6.64 ± 0.485 1.69 ± 0.460 0.000** 
Total 23.26 ± 0.737 32.68 ± 1.261 9.43 ± 1.148 14.43 ± 0.889 21.02 ± 0.708 6.60 ± 0.813 0.048* 

Note: **P < 0.01, *P < 0.05

A similar analysis was performed on the data from school No. 3, the teacher training. There was no control group in this implementation. Rather, the purpose of this step was to introduce teachers to the WISE resources and train them in how to incorporate the resources into their curricula. Nonetheless, significant improvement with respect to questions that promote a high level of cognition further supported the validity of the Healthy Life course. It was expected that there would be no improvement in teachers’ scientific “low level of cognition” responses, given that they were experts in the field of science teaching (see Table 7).

Table 7.
Paired sample T test of pre-test and post-test in teacher training.
Question TypePretestPosttestP
Low level of cognition 20.82 ± 0.592 20.03 ± 0.748 0.400 
High level of cognition 5.26 ± 0.397 8.03 ± 0.728 0.001** 
Total 26.09 ± 0.750 28.41 ± 1.185 0.050* 
Question TypePretestPosttestP
Low level of cognition 20.82 ± 0.592 20.03 ± 0.748 0.400 
High level of cognition 5.26 ± 0.397 8.03 ± 0.728 0.001** 
Total 26.09 ± 0.750 28.41 ± 1.185 0.050* 

Note: **P < 0.01, *P < 0.05

After collecting the questionnaires that were completed at the end of every unit and at the end of the course, the students’ evaluations with respect to level of difficulty, interest, participation, and clarity of the course were analyzed. From the analysis, a histogram was created and is presented in Figure 2. Approximately 60% of the students gave a positive evaluation of the course. Based on the student evaluations, all the topics in the Healthy Life course were rated as moderately difficult, and the majority of the students assessed the tasks associated with the inquiry activities to be acceptable and challenging. Furthermore, most students found the course contents to be interesting, thus suggesting that the course adequately met the needs of the students. Moreover, owing to the 5E learning cycle, students were able to actively participate in the inquiry activities, which meant that students seldom learned by passively listening to their teacher's lectures. They were able to construct scientific concepts on their own, with a minimal degree of instruction by the teacher.

Figure 2.

Student evaluations of various dimensions of the course. Up to 60% of the students gave positive ratings to every topic. However, there were areas that could be improved, such as the activities and teaching strategies.

Figure 2.

Student evaluations of various dimensions of the course. Up to 60% of the students gave positive ratings to every topic. However, there were areas that could be improved, such as the activities and teaching strategies.

In the interview, the volunteers expressed their interest and excitement in the online science-inquiry process and in the cooperative and active-learning strategies that it incorporated. The inquiry process included steps for obtaining information on the Internet and determining the accuracy of the information obtained (Figure 2). In this way, some misconceptions, such as “Bacteria cause antibodies to be resistant” and “More than one antibiotic can cure flu,” were transformed into scientific findings. Additionally, when the researcher stated four terms – knowledge, decision making, action, and healthy living – the students were able to order these terms and use them to describe their own scientific logic, although not every chain was perfect (Figure 3, items 4 and 5). More than 40% of the students believed the four terms to be interrelated, one-by-one. Thus, when encountering problems in their lives, they would be better able to make proper decisions as they apply the knowledge they have learned in school and take actions that align with what they learned about healthy living (Figure 3, item 1). Some students, considering more details, thought about the effect on life of every process of making a decision based on knowledge and then taking action, and considered that they should give up some wrong decisions in practice (Figure 3, items 2 and 3).

Figure 3.

The thinking chains associated with student logic.

Figure 3.

The thinking chains associated with student logic.

Discussion & Implications

Healthy Life is an inquiry-activity-based curriculum that includes use of the WISE materials. Every topic in this curriculum incorporates the 5E learning cycle within the teaching process. Our results offer certain hints for using the WISE materials when designing an inquiry-based curriculum based on the 5E learning cycle. Suggestions are as follows:

  1. Conducting an adequate investigation and analysis of students’ lives can enrich the curriculum content by aligning it with the lives of the students. Thus, the teaching content and inquiry activities are more relevant to the students, thereby promoting student interest.

  2. Developing appropriate teaching objectives based on AAAS and local Chinese biology standards facilitates the organization and presentation of the WISE activities. All WISE teaching steps are designed as inquiry activities in accordance with the 5E instructional model to promote logical thinking. Any materials deemed unsuitable should be modified during this process.

  3. After implementing and testing the program in a high school, a middle school, and a teacher training workshop, the data collected from the action research illustrate that the 5E learning-cycle curriculum designed using WISE materials is an effective teaching tool that is appropriate for application in schools.

Results from the action research conducted in this study reveal that the Healthy Life curriculum contributes to students’ ability to construct scientific concepts and improves their thinking process with respect to controversial topics within the field of science. As a result of their participation in the Healthy Life course, students are better prepared to make decisions and solve problems in real-life situations using the scientific principles and methods they acquired. This WISE-based curriculum provides students opportunities to engage in active and cooperative learning, and it improves their ability to retain information and identify science-related problems. As increasingly more media tools are available in classrooms, computer science and technology play an increasingly more important role in the Healthy Life course. Accordingly, students must have access to the Internet to gather useful information and determine which information is accurate. As many schools are switching to digitized course materials, this is a factor that must be considered when adapting WISE materials to align with course content. One possibility, for example, is to design the course in a way that would allow students to complete their study using an iPad.

Using the guidelines to design and implement a biology curriculum based on the 5E learning cycle, as in this project, science teachers in China and in other parts of the world can design online courses that incorporate WISE materials and other free educational resources on the Internet. The WISE program and materials have been available for 10 years, and there are many more new topics available. The action research presented here serves as an example of what can be accomplished using the WISE materials and the 5E instructional models, and it offers suggestions for science teachers to consider as they develop school-based curricula using online resources.

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Appendix

Example of a two-dimensional table showing the outline of a pretest or posttest.

Question difficultyKnowledgeComprehensionApplicationAnalysisSynthesisEvaluationTotalPercentage
Question range
Findings and Function of Antibiotics Multi. choice    18% 
Short answer       
Cognition of Pathogen Multi. choice       18% 
Short answer      
Inquiry of Drug Resistance Multi. choice      6% 
Short answer       
Reproduction of Bacteria Multi. choice      6% 
Short answer       
How to Use Antibiotics Multi. choice      26 52% 
Short answer     15 
Total 15 15 50/100% 
Percentage 12% 6% 30% 12% 30% 10% 
Question difficultyKnowledgeComprehensionApplicationAnalysisSynthesisEvaluationTotalPercentage
Question range
Findings and Function of Antibiotics Multi. choice    18% 
Short answer       
Cognition of Pathogen Multi. choice       18% 
Short answer      
Inquiry of Drug Resistance Multi. choice      6% 
Short answer       
Reproduction of Bacteria Multi. choice      6% 
Short answer       
How to Use Antibiotics Multi. choice      26 52% 
Short answer     15 
Total 15 15 50/100% 
Percentage 12% 6% 30% 12% 30% 10% 

Examples of pretest questions.

  • Multiple-choice (Identify the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question)

    1. Which disease can the antibiotics be used for?

      • (a)

        Dysentery

      • (b)

        SARS

      • (c)

        AIDS

      • (d)

        Hepatitis B

    2. What is the action principle of amoxicillin?

      • (a)

        Prevents the formation of cell membrane

      • (b)

        Prevents cell division in bacteria

      • (c)

        Can engulf the bacteria

      • (d)

        Prevents bacteria from entering body

    3. Which statement about antibiotic use is incorrect?

      • (a)

        When you feel better from using the antibiotics, continue use for 1–2 days.

      • (b)

        Intravenous injection can make antibiotics function more quickly.

      • (c)

        Take as many kinds of antibiotics as possible to avoid drug resistance.

      • (d)

        Use antibiotics with aspirin to produce better effects in some cases.

    4. Breathing is a complex process, and asthma patients often feel difficulty breathing, chest tightness, because of ________.

      • (a)

        an obstruction in gas exchange

      • (b)

        a narrowing of respiratory tract

      • (c)

        a path lengthening of gas into the lungs

      • (d)

        breathing harmful gases during respiration

    5. The attitude we should hold about asthma is ________.

      • (a)

        We should pay attention to the people with a family history of asthma

      • (b)

        Healthy persons don't have to pay attention to the disease

      • (c)

        In order to avoid cross-infection, we should be separated from asthmatic patients

      • (d)

        Healthy people should also take anti-allergy drugs to prevent asthma.

        (…)

  • Short-answer (Demonstrate your idea as clearly as possible with the knowledge you've learned)

    1. Observe the picture, and answer the questions below.
      • What is the topic of this cartoon?

      • Why does this problem occur especially in recent years?

      • What is the meaning of ‘super-bacteria’ in the picture?

      • Explain the reason why ‘super-bacteria’ occur.

      • Do you agree with some people using antibiotics to avoid any bacteria infecting them in daily life? Put forward your evidence clearly.

        (…)

Examples of posttest questions.

  • Multiple-choice (Identify the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question)

    1. Wang is ill and goes to the hospital. A doctor's prescription for him is 2 tablets of amoxicillin, 2 tablets of dexamethasone, 4 tablets of ‘BISHUSHI’, and 2 tablets of vitamin C, taken three times a day for two days. Which of these medicines is an antibiotic?

      • (a)

        Amoxicillin

      • (b)

        Dexamethasone

      • (c)

        ‘BISHUSHI’

      • (d)

        Vitamin C

    2. A student has observed that the cell expanded when Staphylococcus aureus proliferated. This is because the penicillin in the culture medium can ________.

      • (a)

        prevent the formation of cell membranes

      • (b)

        prevent cell division in bacteria

      • (c)

        engulf the bacteria

      • (d)

        prevent bacteria from entering the body

    3. According to the “tube experiment,” the main reason why asthma patients feel chest tightness and difficulty breathing is ________.

      • (a)

        an obstruction in gas exchange

      • (b)

        a narrowing of the respiratory tract

      • (c)

        a path lengthening of gas into the lungs

      • (d)

        breathing harmful gases during respiration

    4. “PM 2.5” indicates that a particle is ≤2.5 microns in diameter; such substances are more harmful than those of size PM 10 because ________.

      • (a)

        particles with small diameters enter the alveoli more easily and are not easily discharged

      • (b)

        small particles are all toxic substances

      • (c)

        the monitoring data for PM 10 are not accurate

      • (d)

        small particles can be aggregated into large particles

    5. Which statement about asthma medicine is incorrect?

      • (a)

        Bronchial dilation can be used in an acute attack of asthma.

      • (b)

        Anti-allergy drugs are mainly for patients with asthma genetic background.

      • (c)

        Long-term use of antibiotics can effectively inhibit the occurrence of asthma.

      • (d)

        Anti-inflammatory medicine can be effective in the treatment of chronic asthma.

        (…)

  • Short-answer (Demonstrate your idea as clearly as possible with the knowledge you've learned in Healthy Life)

    1. Observe the picture, and answer the questions below.
      • Flu is caused by ________.

      • Flu is not commonly a threat to human life, but it is hardest-hit by the abuse of antibiotics. Why?

      • Flu is often accompanied by fever, runny nose, sore throat, and other symptoms. Why do doctors sometimes include antibiotics in a flu prescription?