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Contingency in high-school students’ reasoning about electrochemical cells: Opportunities for learning and teaching in school science
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.
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.
Keyword [en]
electrochemistry, laboratory work, concept mapping, high-school, learning, teaching, pragmatism, practical epistemology analysis, contingency, discourse, misconceptions, alternative ideas, curricular materials
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Science Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32303ISBN: 978-91-7155-986-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-32303DiVA: diva2:279988
Public defence
2010-02-12, Dahlströmsalen, Campus Konradsberg, Hus D, Rålambsvägen 26 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Hur kan lärare hjälpa elever att resonera naturvetenskapligt
Note
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
List of papers
1. Describing and Analyzing Learning in Action: An Empirical Study of the Importance of Misconceptions in Learning Science
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Describing and Analyzing Learning in Action: An Empirical Study of the Importance of Misconceptions in Learning Science
2008 (English)In: Science Education, ISSN 0036-8326, Vol. 92, no 1, 141-164 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Although misconceptions in science have been established in interview studies, their role during the learning process is poorly examined. In this paper we use results from a classroom study to analyze to what extent nonscientific ideas in electrochemistry that students report in interviews enter into their learning in a more authentic setting. We audio recorded talk between eight pairs of Swedish upper secondary students during a practical on electrochemical cells. Learning was operationalized on a discursive level as a description of what students do and say when taking part in an activity. This enabled an analysis of how encounters with misconceptions influenced the development of students’ reasoning, compared to other encounters during the learning experience. Misconceptions did not constrain the development of students’ reasoning. Rather, their reasoning developed in response to the contingencies of the specific situation. When misconceptions were encountered, they appeared as alternatives and questions not actively defended. Sometimes, encounters with these misconceptions were generative of the students’ reasoning. The results indicate that demonstrating misconceptions in interviews is not enough to assume that they interfere with learning in other contexts. Educational implications and future lines of research based on these findings and on the methodology applied are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley Interscience, 2008
Keyword
Learning, misconceptions, pragmatism, electrochemistry
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Science Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-13352 (URN)doi:10.1002/sce (DOI)
Available from: 2008-03-20 Created: 2008-03-20 Last updated: 2010-01-18Bibliographically approved
2. Beyond Explanations: What Else Do Students Need to Understand Science?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Beyond Explanations: What Else Do Students Need to Understand Science?
2009 (English)In: Science Education, ISSN 0036-8326, E-ISSN 1098-237X, Vol. 93, 1026-1049 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Students’ difficulties with learning science have generally been framed in terms of their generalized conceptual knowledge of a science topic as elicited through their explanations of natural phenomena. In this paper, we empirically explore what more goes into giving a scientific account of a natural phenomenon than giving such generalized explanations. We audio-recorded pairs of upper secondary students during lab-work in electrochemistry. We used a situative and pragmatist approach to study learning in action. This approach made it possible to study how the particulars and contingencies of working with a real electrochemical cell went into students’ reasoning. Our results show that students needed to learn to make distinctions, recognize, and name the particulars in encounters with their cell. They also needed to learn what counts as reasonable readings and to deal with quantitative issues and correlations pertaining to their cell. We refer to these additional learning requirements as the students’ taxonomic and measurement interests. Implications for what is involved in giving a scientific account of a natural phenomenon in school are discussed. The study constitutes an attempt to include, in a systematic way, also the particulars and contingencies of actual practice in an account of students’ reasoning in science.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley Interscience, 2009
Keyword
learning, science education, electrochemistry, practical epistemology analysis, pragmatism
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Science Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-31326 (URN)10.1002/sce.20343 (DOI)000271173500004 ()
Available from: 2009-11-10 Created: 2009-11-10 Last updated: 2010-09-28Bibliographically approved
3. Students' interactions with curricular materials and scientific ideas in two different school science activities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students' interactions with curricular materials and scientific ideas in two different school science activities
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The extent to which students connect what they do with materials to the relevant scientific ideas has primarily been studied in relation to laboratory work. We compared students’ interactions with curricular materials and scientific ideas in two activities commonly regarded as affording manipulation of either materials (laboratory work) or ideas (concept mapping). Students were audio and video recorded as they engaged in a lab work activity about real electrochemical cells or in a concept mapping activity about idealized cells. We used a practical epistemology analysis to describe how students interacted with ideas and materials in each activity. Students interacted extensively with materials as well as with ideas in both activities. Students used the real electrochemical cell, but never the physical concept map, to further their explanations of how an electrochemical cell works. Students also took additional actions beyond interacting with materials and ideas to further both activities. Primarily, students invoked taxonomic investigations and oriented themselves in the expectations and rules of each activity. Both activities thus afforded the learning of habits of interacting with materials and ideas, although to somewhat different extents and in partly different ways.

Keyword
scientific ideas, curricular materials, laboratory work, concept mapping, electrochemistry, practical epistemology analysis, habits
National Category
Mathematics Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32300 (URN)
Projects
Hur kan lärare hjälpa elever att resonera naturvetenskapligt?
Available from: 2009-12-07 Created: 2009-12-07 Last updated: 2010-12-01Bibliographically approved
4. Moving beyond a focus on conceptual difficulties to support students' learning in science
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Moving beyond a focus on conceptual difficulties to support students' learning in science
(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
science, electrochemistry, learning, teaching, description, practical epistemologies, explanation, macroscopic, submicroscopic, perceiving
National Category
Mathematics Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32302 (URN)
Projects
Hur kan lärare hjälpa elever att resonera naturvetenskapligt?
Available from: 2009-12-07 Created: 2009-12-07 Last updated: 2010-12-01Bibliographically approved

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