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Moving beyond a focus on conceptual difficulties to support students' learning in science
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Systematic descriptions of students’ discursive ways of coping with various school science activities constitute potential resources for teachers in their ongoing interactions with students in the science classroom. In a previous study we showed that in order to give a scientific account of a real electrochemical cell high school students needed to learn how to distinguish and name constituents of the cell as well as to sort out correlations pertaining to the cell. Here we analyze consequences for students’ learning about electrochemical cells of introducing such taxonomic and correlational investigations into conversations between a researcher and single students. The investigations had consequences for (1) students’ ability to frame their explanations, (2) how students connected the macroscopic and submicroscopic levels of chemical representation and (3) students’ possibilities of perceiving what happened in the cell. The results show that problems of producing explanations as well as of connecting levels of chemical representation may be fruitfully dealt with by addressing issues beyond those linked to conceptual difficulties. The study suggests ways in which systematic descriptions of students’ own ways of coping with school science activities may be generalized and incorporated into teachers’ repertoires for action in the science classroom.

Keyword [en]
science, electrochemistry, learning, teaching, description, practical epistemologies, explanation, macroscopic, submicroscopic, perceiving
National Category
Mathematics Didactics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32302OAI: diva2:279987
Hur kan lärare hjälpa elever att resonera naturvetenskapligt?
Available from: 2009-12-07 Created: 2009-12-07 Last updated: 2010-12-01Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Contingency in high-school students’ reasoning about electrochemical cells: Opportunities for learning and teaching in school science
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Contingency in high-school students’ reasoning about electrochemical cells: Opportunities for learning and teaching in school science
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis takes its departure from the extensive literature on students’ alternative ideas in science. Although describing students’ conceptual knowledge in many science areas, the literature offers little about how this knowledge enters into the science learning process. Neither has it focused on how particulars and contingencies of curricular materials enter into the learning process. In this thesis I make high-resolution analyses of students’ learning in action during school science activities about real or idealized electrochemical cells. I use a discursive mechanism of learning developed to describe how students become participants in new practices through slow changes in word use. Specifically, I examine how alternative and accepted scientific ideas, as well as curricular materials, enter into students’ reasoning. The results are then used for producing hypotheses over how a teacher can support students’ science learning. Alternative ideas in electrochemistry did not necessarily interfere negatively with, and were sometimes productive for, students’ reasoning during the activities. Students included the particulars and contingencies of curricular materials in their reasoning not only when interacting with a real electrochemical cell but also in a more theoretical concept mapping activity about an idealized cell. Through taxonomic and correlational investigations students connected the particulars and contingencies of the real electrochemical cell to the generic knowledge of electrochemistry. When actively introduced by the researcher, such investigations had consequences for how single students framed their explanations of a real electrochemical cell. The results indicate ways in which teachers may encourage the productive use of contingencies to promote learning within the science classroom. However, this may require consideration of what students say in terms of consequences for their further learning rather than in terms of correct or incorrect content.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Stockholm University, 2010. 68 p.
electrochemistry, laboratory work, concept mapping, high-school, learning, teaching, pragmatism, practical epistemology analysis, contingency, discourse, misconceptions, alternative ideas, curricular materials
National Category
Research subject
Science Education
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32303 (URN)978-91-7155-986-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-02-12, Dahlströmsalen, Campus Konradsberg, Hus D, Rålambsvägen 26 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Hur kan lärare hjälpa elever att resonera naturvetenskapligt
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3:Manuscript; Paper 4:ManuscriptAvailable from: 2010-01-21 Created: 2009-12-07 Last updated: 2010-01-20Bibliographically approved

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Hamza, KarimWickman, Per-Olof
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