Transforming the social practices of learning with representations: a study of disciplinary discourse

Nichols, Kim, Hanan, Jim and Ranasinghe, Muditha (2013) Transforming the social practices of learning with representations: a study of disciplinary discourse. Research in Science Education, 43 1: 179-208. doi:10.1007/s11165-011-9263-0

Author Nichols, Kim
Hanan, Jim
Ranasinghe, Muditha
Title Transforming the social practices of learning with representations: a study of disciplinary discourse
Journal name Research in Science Education   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0157-244X
Publication date 2013-02
Year available 2011
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s11165-011-9263-0
Volume 43
Issue 1
Start page 179
End page 208
Total pages 30
Place of publication Dordrecht, Netherlands
Publisher Springer Netherlands
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Abstract This study used an interactive dynamic simulation of action potential to explore social practices of learning among first year undergraduate biology students. It aimed to create a learning environment that fosters knowledge building discourse through working with multiple concept-specific representations. Three hundred and eighty-nine students and twenty-four tutors from different tutorial classes in Queensland, Australia participated in the study. Students were randomly allocated to two experimental groups and a comparison group. In the experimental groups, pairs of students used the interactive simulation to explore action potential. Only one of the experimental groups received instruction that modelled the scientific and visual language conventions of the representations within the simulation. In the comparison group, small groups of students used a traditional paperbased activity. Students across all groups were audio recorded using a think-aloud protocol while completing the group activity. Individual learning gains in the experimental groups and the comparison group were similar. However, the experimental groups showed a significantly greater frequency of knowledge construction discourse that included explanatory answers, evaluations, interpretation, testing and synthesis compared to the comparison group, indicating a deeper understanding of action potential. Analysis of misconceptions on the post-test and tutors’ reflections revealed that the experimental group receiving instruction modelling the scientific and visual language conventions around the representations had a better grasp of the terminology associated with the concepts compared with the other groups. The findings suggest that instruction focussing on the language conventions of concept-specific representations fosters the development of disciplinary discourse by transforming students’ social practices of working with scientific knowledge.
Keyword Disciplinary discourse
Disciplinary literacy
Disciplinary literacy
University science
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online: 29 September 2011.

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Created: Wed, 05 Oct 2011, 09:41:00 EST by Jim Hanan on behalf of School of Information Technol and Elec Engineering