Theses Doctoral

Examining the Relationship between Physical Models and Students' Science Practices

Miller, Alison Riley

Scientists engage with practices like model development and use, data analysis and interpretation, explanation construction, and argumentation in order to expand the frontiers of science, so it can be inferred that students’ engagement with science practices may help them deepen their own science understanding. As one of three dimensions on which the Next Generation Science Standards is built, science practices are recognized as an important component of science instruction. However, the contexts in which these practices happen are under-researched. Furthermore, research on science practices among students tends to focus on one or two practices in isolation when, in reality, students and scientists tend to engage with multiple overlapping practices.
This study focused on identifying and characterizing multiple science practices as eighth and ninth-grade Earth Science students participated in a small group collaborative problem solving activity both with and without the use of a physical model. This study found a range of sophistication in the observed science practices as well as a relationship between the frequency of those practices and the accuracy of the groups’ outcomes. Based on this relationship, groups were assigned to one of three categories. Further analysis revealed that model use varied among the three categories of groups. Comparisons across these three group categories suggest that there may be a bootstrapping relationship between students’ engagement with science practices and the development of their content understanding. This metaphor of bootstrapping is used to represent how students may develop deeper science content understanding through engagement with science practices and concurrently develop greater facility with science practices as they learn science content.
Implications are presented for curriculum designers, teachers and teacher educators. These include recommendations for curriculum design that encourage structured opportunities for small group engagement with science practices as well as recommendations for assessment of students’ reasoning while they engage with science practices within small group collaborative contexts.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Rivet, Ann
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2015