Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James H. Wandersee


The purpose of this study was to explore the use of concept circle diagrams, a newly developed metacognitive strategy (Wandersee, 1987), for meaningful science learning. Two research questions were: (a) Do concept circle diagrams enhance the identification and learning of science concepts more than traditional learning methods? and (b) Do concept circle diagrams evolve in quality within and across three sequences of direct explanation, guided practice, and independent practice? This study builds upon earlier research on two important metacognitive strategies, Vee diagrams (Gowin, 1981) and concept mapping (Novak & Gowin, 1984), used in science education. Participants were members of two fifth-grade science classes located at a suburban elementary school in southeastern Louisiana. Based on random assignment, classes were identified as the concept circle diagram (CCD) group and the traditional instruction (TRAD) group. First, all students completed two pretests, (a) identifying science concepts in a text passage, and (b) answering a multiple-choice test on their science unit. Then during an eight-week lesson on light and color, the CCD group constructed five sets of diagrams on concepts from science text materials, while the TRAD group completed study guides and participated in group activities. Finally, all students completed the same identification and multiple-choice tests as posttest measures. Analyses of covariance were used to examine both identification and learning of science concepts measures. While there were no significant differences between groups on identification, the CCD group performed significantly higher on concept learning. In addition, qualitative analyses were used to address the evolution in quality of six students' diagrams. While these students demonstrated improvement on mastery of technique and graphic complexity, only the high achievers improved on conceptual sophistication. These results provide some support for previous research on the use of metacognitive strategies for meaningful learning. That is, the CCD group may have outscored the TRAD group on the multiple-choice posttest due to their active involvement with this new learning strategy. However, while the two groups performed similarly on the identification measure, this may be due to the unfamiliarity of the text passage used and the task required.