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The Combination of the Data Logger and the 3E Model as an Afford to Create Meaningful Learning

By: Siti Shamsiah Binti San


For the past four decades, “the research regarding students alternative conceptions were inspired by Ausubel (1969)” (as cited in Treagust et al., 1996, p. 1). Ausubel said, “The most important single factor influence learning is what the learning already knows. Ascertain this and teach…accordingly” (as cited in Treagust et al., 1996, p. 1). In addition, other researchers that exist before Ausuble also held ideas regarding the importance to elicit students’ idea as a starting point to introduce a new topic (Treagust et al., 1996).

Even though, there are lots of research that emphasis on the importance of using students’ prior knowledge to commence a new topic, teachers in many classrooms still teach the students in a traditional way. In the traditional classroom students receive the knowledge passively; and students may find the science conceptions are something that not related to their daily life experiences. This approach obviously denies students abilities to develop their own understanding and discourage students to engage with teaching and learning activities.

From my pervious experience as a student, I had experienced a traditional approach of teaching and learning especially in science classroom for a long time of period. This teaching approach was very dominant during my studies in secondary and tertiary levels. Usually science teachers or lecturers were delivered science concepts without considered the students prior knowledge as they embarked on new topic. They made an assumption that the students’ mind were liked an “empty vessel” and they responsibility were to fulfill the “empty vessel” with the science concepts.

Unfortunately, the same teaching approach also applies in science laboratory sessions. As a student, I had to perform the experiments which were, fully guided by the “recipe books” or so-called the laboratory manuals to prove the theories that I had learned during the science classes. Therefore, every times I performed the experiments I kept on asking myself why I had to do this experiment because I hardly to make connections between the concepts that I had learned in the science classroom with the activities that I performed in the laboratory. Furthermore, the process to perform the experiment is tedious especially to assemble the apparatus and to record the data. Sometime, I took more time to assemble the apparatus and record the data rather than analysis or interpret the data. Therefore, the existing of technology such as data logger is very helpful to make laboratory sessions more effective and convenience.

However, the existing of sophisticated tool to assist meaningful learning becomes useless if it is not use accordingly. From my past experience, the data logger is used to collect the data in a simple way but at the same time the students still have to follow the steps that stated in the laboratory manual to conduct the investigation. They do not have the opportunity do design their own investigation. Once again, the investigation is carried out to confirm the theories that had learned in science classroom. In my opinion, the usage of data logger will be meaningful if it is combines with appropriate teaching approach that consider students’ existing ideas about the science conceptions. Then, the students have the opportunity to develop their on understanding based on what they already know and give an opportunity to them to enhance their knowledge according to what they had learned through the lesson.

In this paper, I would like to discuss the advantages of using data logger to assist students during the laboratory session and the effectiveness of using constructivist learning model which is the 3E Model. The combination of these two elements perhaps can make the teachers to switch from a dull teaching approach to an interactive teaching approach.

The Introduction of a New Learning Approach

The 3E model for the Constructivist Learning

The 3E model is abbreviation of The Engaging, Empowering, and Enhancing Model. This model is combination of the three learning model which are The Generative learning Model developed by Cosgrove and Osborne (1985), The Interactive Learning Model by Biddulph (1990), and Japanese Science Activity Structure developed by Lin et al. (2000) (as cited in Tytler, 2002b).

This model consists of three major phases which are engaging, empowering, and enhancing that aiming to promote active learning in science classroom (Table 1: The Steps in the 3E Model).

Table 1: The Steps in the 3E Model




· Teacher play a crucial role to engage the students by asking questions or by showing interesting pictures to gain background knowledge of the students about a topic.

· Teacher does brainstorming of the idea with the students.

· Students actively work within their group members to brainstorm the ideas or seek possible answers for the questions that have been asked.


· Students have the authority to clarify their own understanding.

· Students have to work together in group to design their own investigation.

· Teacher will provide all the materials that needed to run this activity.

· Students do the discussion based on their finding.

· Students have to answer the questions that provided by teacher.

· In this phase teacher provide the surrounding that required the students to think critically.


· Teacher raises questions that related to daily events and it is focuses to enhance student understanding.

· Students find the answers by browsing the encyclopedia, internet and from other materials.

The first phase of the 3E Model is ‘Engaging Phase’. In this phase, teacher has to elicit students’ prior knowledge. The 3E Model implements the personal constructivist approach which learners construct understanding based on their prior knowledge (Tytler, 2002a, p. 16). Their prior ideas becoming the starting point to start the lesson. This phase shares the common characteristics with the other learning models which are focus on obtaining students’ prior knowledge before start the lesson. Moreover, teacher has to be creative to start the lesson with interesting and challenging activity so the teacher is able to engage students through out the whole lesson as the students realize this topic is closely related to their daily life experiences.

The second phase of this model is ‘Empowering phase’. Students would plan and conduct investigation to clarify their prior ideas. This phase has the similarities with the other three models. For instance, in the Japanese Science Activity Structures (Tytler, 2002b, p. 33), “students are helped to generate hypotheses or predictions, and to work towards planning methods to investigate possible explanations” in ‘Plan investigations activity’; in the Generative Learning Model (Tytler, 2002b), students do demonstrations or experiments to clarify their ideas in challenge phase; and students carry out investigation in students’ investigation phase through The Interactive Approach (Tytler, 2002b).

This model also generated from the social constructivist view. In this second phase, the teacher work together with the students to construct the students’ understanding (Tytler, 2002a). The teacher also provides all the materials and create classroom environment that can shift from individual student understanding to the way classroom environments support the effective learning (Tytler, 2002a).

The last phase of this model is ‘Enhancing Phase’. In this phase the students reflect their own learning by presenting their finding and draw conclusions based on their finding. The teacher also raises questions that focus on enhancing student understanding. On the other hand, the students can find the answer by browsing encyclopedia, internet and other reading materials. This activity is able to help the students to relate the concept that they have learned with daily life activities.

As a conclusion, the 3E Model focuses on students’ prior ideas to start a lesson to engage students with the lesson. Then the students have the authority to construct their own understanding by involved in active learning process. Afterwards, the students actively reflect their own learning process by making their own conclusion based on what they have learned. Besides, this model is really practical to be used by teachers to avoid traditional way of teaching. Besides, the 3E model is easy to apply in normal science classrooms as well as in laboratory sessions because the steps in this model are not complicated as opposedd to other learning model. Therefore, the opportunity to stay away from one way traffic of teaching and learning activity is widely opened, it is depends on the teachers to weave the existing learning model and the technology together in order to create meaningful learning among students.

The Computer Based Learning

Refer to existing education system in my country, the traditional teaching approach still dominated in most of the teaching and learning activity. This teacher-centered approach should not only be applied in normal science classrooms but also in laboratory sessions. According to “Hodson (1990) in his research paper has been described laboratory work as often being dull and teacher direct, and highlighted the fact that students often failed to relate the laboratory work to other aspect of their learning” (as cited in Hart et al., 2000, p. 656). Moreover, “Gustone and Champange (1990) argued that laboratory could successfully be used to promote conceptual change if small qualitative laboratory task is used” (as cited in Hart et al., 2000, p. 656). “Such tasks aid in students’ reconstructing their thinking as less time is spent on interacting with apparatus, instructions, recipe and more time spent on discussion and reflection” (Hart et al., 2000, p. 656). Therefore it is important for the teachers to create environment that allow the students to engage more on discussion and reflection during the laboratory work rather than spent more time to assemble the apparatus or to understand the tedious procedure. In order to reduce time to follow the rigid procedure of laboratory work, computer based learning can be introduced.

The computer based learning is one of the ways to engage the students with the teaching and learning activity. Through this approach, the students use ICT tools to collect the data. The usage of tools such as data logger, spreadsheet, databases can give advantages to the students to spent more time to engage in activities such as analyzing, synthesizing or exploring results of the experiment on the relevant concepts rather then spend more time to assemble the apparatus and materials to perform the activity (Hart et al., 2000).

Besides, according to Steed’s study (as cited in Rodrigues, Pearce, & Livett, 2001) the emerging of technology can help teachers to create interactive and interesting learning environment and the existing of computer based learning able to help students to carry out unfeasible and dangerous experiments such as examine the nuclear reaction. By using the technology, the students can observe the nuclear reaction through computer simulation. However technology is only a tool to assist teacher in teaching and learning activities but the technology alone can not takes over the lesson because technology is as an enabler. Therefore, in order to improve the laboratory work, new teaching approach that considers students’ pre-conceptions, the constructivism theory, and the usage of technology should be address seriously.

Data Logger as Enabler: In conjunction with the ICT era, “scientists are always looking for new ways in which to pursue and expand scientific boundaries and as a result are developing new technologies. These technologies are often adapted for the classroom. Data logger is a technology which scientists have developed and is gradually being used more and more in the classroom” (Data Logging, n.d).

“Data logging involves the use of sensors, attached to the computer, to gather information and store it electronically in the form of graphs and tables. A data logger is another name for an interface box. The interface box is a portable and self-contained device. It connects to the sensors and records and monitors the readings from the sensors. The interface box is then connected to the computer and the information is transferred to a piece of software on the computer. The information is then downloaded and normally displayed in a graphical format for analysis. There are two types of interface boxes or data loggers, USB data loggers and hand held data loggers” (Data Logging, n.d). (Figure 1: The schematic diagram of data logger layout).

In this experiment, data logger is used to ensure the students engage more on the analyzing and interpreting the data rather then focus on assembling the apparatus and recording the data. As opposed to traditional way to measure temperature, the students have to assemble the thermometer and monitor the changes of temperature regularly (Figure 2: Traditional way to investigate the fermentation process). Whereas, by using the data logger the students do not have to observe the change of temperature manually because all the data is transferred to the computer automatically. Besides, the students might get the data from the computer in different forms for examples bar graphs, tables, and line graph (Figure 3: The investigation of fermentation process by using data logger).

“Computers or other gadgets are highly attractive to students and they readily adapt to become effective users of various devices that many older individuals find particularly confronting. This interest of students in modern interactive devices, and their ability to absorb themselves in solving problems they find relevant” (Roberson, 2004). The usage of data loggers in science classroom can actively engage the students to embark on scientific investigation especially teenagers that eager to explore new things.

Justification of Using Data Logger: According to Rodrigues (2001) the usage of ICT tools able to reduce monotony of repetitive experiment. Besides that “the usage of ICT also is able to enhance learning among students because it removes distracters” (Rodrigues, 2001, p. 32). Of instance, in this experiment, the students can focus more on the implication of graphical data that appear on the computer screen rather than record that temperature change every 60 seconds. Rodrigues (2001) also suggests that a benefit of the data logger with respect to conventional classroom measurement activities lies in the measurement of quantities that normally warrant complex calculation.

The other benefit cooperate with the data logger in conducting scientific investigation is more then one sensor can be used simultaneously (e.g., pH and temperature sensors). For example if the students want to observe the temperature and the pH value after 15 seconds, they can get the information directly from the computer. Therefore, the students are able to monitor the pattern of pH and temperature changes, along with the experiment. Moreover, the data that students collect is more accurate compare to if they collect it manually.

To sum up, based on the previous studies it clearly shows that the usage of ICT in laboratory works able to engage and enhance students with higher – order thinking activities such as analyzing and interpreting the information.

The Example of Lesson Plan that cooperate Data Logger with the 3E Model

This is an example of activity that can be conducted by a teacher to engage students with a topic of anaerobic respiration. In this experiment there are two variables to be measure which are pH and temperature. In order to avoid conventional way to conduct this experiment, data logger is used ensure the students can give full attention on analyzing and interpreting the data.

This lesson plan is structured to give a clear view to the readers about the steps that involved in designing a lesson based on the 3E Model. First, teacher has to include details about the topic, number of students, duration of the lesson, and learning outcomes of this topic (Table 2: The Details about the Topic) as a guidance to the teacher to start this topic. Second, teacher also has to include the information about the apparatus and materials that needed to conduct the investigation. This is very important to ensure teacher provides appropriate materials to support the learning activity (Table 3: Teaching and Learning Resources (TLR)). Thirdly, the teacher writes the activities for each of the phases as guidance for the teacher to conduct the lesson and to ensure students actively involve in the investigation. Besides, the teacher plays an active role as co-researcher to assist the students in the investigation (Table 4: Teaching and learning Activity).


The fast growing technology in this decade has influences the direction of learning process especially in science laboratory classes. The technology that available such as the data logger, makes practical work becomes more efficient as students do not have to spend more time to set up the apparatus and recording the data. Moreover, they are able to focus on other activities such as analyzing the data rather then assembling the apparatus. As opposed to conventional way to conduct the scientific investigation, the students have to struggle to set up the apparatus and monitor the progress of the experiments manually.

Furthermore, the data logger can be combined together with constructivist learning model such as the 3E Model to retain students’ attention towards the lesson. This model considers students’ prior knowledge as a starting point to embark on new science concept; the authority to conduct the investigation in order to seek for the answers; and provides activities that can related their result from the experiment with daily experience also can promote meaningful learning among students. Besides, the usage of new technology to collect the data is able to make the lesson more interactive and convenience. Therefore, the combination of these two elements can boost students’ enthusiasm towards science subject.

After a long discussion regarding the usage of using data logger with the 3E Model to conduct scientific investigation, these three simple steps in this model can make teaching and learning activity becomes more meaningful, as students become active participants in this learning process. However, in this model, teacher still play a crucial role to “promote discourse community in which students and the teacher ‘co-construct’ knowledge” (Tytler, 2002a, p. 19). Therefore, it is teacher’s responsibility to create learning environment that can retain students’ interest towards the lesson.

Based on these strong explanations on the advantages of using data logger and the 3E Model in teaching and learning activity, it depends on the teacher to choose whether their what to continue to use lame teaching approach or change to teaching approach that give opportunity to the students to explore the existing technology without neglecting students’ existing ideas as a starting point to start a lesson. Finally, sophisticated tools that can assist learning process may become useless if it is not used wisely.


Data logging (n.d). Retrieved March 25, 2008, from

Pre-lab for yeast respiration and fermentation [Image] (n.d). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from

World of Chantilly [Image] (2004). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from

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Roberson, P. (2004). Using Data Loggers. Retrieved March 27, 2008, from

Rodrigues, S., Pearce, J., Livett, M. (2001). Using video analysis or data loggers during practical work in first year physics. Educational Studies, 27(1 ), 31-43.

Treagust, D. F., Duit, R., & Fraser, B. J. (1996). Overview: Research on students’ perinstructional concpetions – The driving force for improving teaching and learning in science and mathematics. In D. F. Treagust, R. Duit, & B. J. Fraser (Eds.), Improving teaching and learning in science and mathematics (pp. 1-14). New York (NY): Teacher College Press.

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and changing views of learning. Australian Science Teachers’ Journal, 48(3), 14-21.

Tytler, R. (2002b). Teaching for understanding: Constructivist/conceptual change teaching

approach. Australian Science Teachers’ Journal, 48(4), 30-35.

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