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Title page for ETD etd-07152013-124011

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Manz, Eve Isabella
URN etd-07152013-124011
Title Integrating the Epistemic, Conceptual, and Social Aspects of Scientific Modeling
Degree PhD
Department Learning, Teaching and Diversity
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Leona Schauble Committee Co-Chair
Richard Lehrer Committee Co-Chair
Douglas Clark Committee Member
Norbert Ross Committee Member
Rogers Hall Committee Member
  • ecology
  • elementary education
  • science-as-practice
  • modeling
  • science education
Date of Defense 2013-06-09
Availability unrestricted
Science education is increasingly organized around engaging students in scientific practices, positioning them as makers of knowledge. However, there is significant uncertainty both about how to initiate students into these practices and how domain knowledge and participation in practice should be integrated in instruction. This three-paper dissertation addresses these challenges by situating students’ activity within the overarching enterprise of modeling. The first paper is a conceptual review of the literature on scientific argumentation. It conceptualizes argumentation as the social activity that problematizes and stabilizes modeling practice and proposes three directions for research: carefully designing uncertainty into students’ activity, describing how students critique not just what they know but the means by which they know it, and attending to the development of practice.

The second and third papers are empirical studies of third grade students’ scientific activity in a backyard ecosystem; they trace the relation between students’ modeling practice and the development of ecological understanding. The second paper documents four phases of instruction during one school year, following the development of one disciplinary idea, the reproductive success of plants. It traces how students’ activity facilitated the visibility and utility of meanings for reproduction, which, in turn, shaped students’ subsequent modeling practice. The third paper presents a close analysis of students’ work around one experiment, with which they sought to understand how different amounts of light might account for the pattern of plant distribution in the backyard. It describes the aspects of modeling practice students engaged in as they worked with the experiment, how their practice made contact with ecological ideas, and how forms of practice and disciplinary understandings developed over the course of eight weeks of activity.

As a set, the papers illustrate productive contacts between the social, conceptual, and epistemic aspects of scientific activity that can be cultivated in instructional experiences that are typical in elementary school. In addition, they present, test, and refine design principles for engineering learning environments in which knowledge-making is both accessible to students and a useful foundation for disciplinary understandings.

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