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December 2 Colloquium – Benedikt Harrer

November 25th, 2013
 

Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Maine

THESIS DEFENSE
& MAINE RISE CENTER COLLOQUIUM

Benedikt Harrer
Ph.D. Candidate

“IDENTIFYING PRODUCTIVE RESOURCES IN SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ DISCOURSE ABOUT ENERGY”

A growing program of research in science education acknowledges the beginnings of disciplinary reasoning in students’ ideas and seeks to inform instruction that responds productively to these disciplinary progenitors in the moment to foster their development into sophisticated scientific practice. This dissertation examines secondary school students’ ideas about energy for progenitors of disciplinary knowledge and practice. Previously, researchers argued that students’ ideas about energy were constrained by stable and coherent conceptual structures that conflicted with an assumed unified scientific conception and therefore needed to be replaced. These researchers did not attend to the productive elements in students’ ideas about energy.

To analyze the disciplinary substance in students’ ideas, a theoretical perspective was developed that extends Hammer et al.’s resources framework (Hammer et al., 2005. Resources, framing, and transfer. In Mestre, Ed., Transfer of Learning: Research and Perspectives, 89-120. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing). This elaboration allows for the identification of disciplinary productive resources—i.e., appropriately activated declarative and procedural pieces of knowledge—in individual students’ utterances as well as in the interactions of multiple learners engaged in group learning activities.

Using this framework, original interview transcripts from one of the most influential studies of students’ ideas about energy (Watts, 1983. Some alternative views of energy. Physics Education, 18/5, 213-217) were analyzed. Disciplinary productive resources regarding the ontology of energy, indicators for energy, and mechanistic reasoning about energy were found to be activated by interviewed students. These valuable aspects were not recognized by the original author. An interpretive analysis of video recorded student-centered discourse in rural Maine middle schools was carried out to find cases of resource activation in classroom discussions. Several cases of disciplinary productive resources regarding the nature of energy and its forms as well as the construction of a mechanistic energy story were identified and richly described.

Like energy, resources are manifested in various ways. The results of this study imply the necessity of appropriate disciplinary training for teachers that enables them to recognize and productively respond to disciplinary progenitors of the energy concept in students’ ideas.

 

MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2013
3:00 pm
ARTHUR ST. JOHN HILL AUDITORIUM

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