AbstractsComputer Science

Trajectories of collaborative scientific conceptual change: middle school students learning about ecosystems in a CSCL environment

by Lei Liu

Institution: Rutgers University
Department: Education
Degree: PhD
Year: 2008
Keywords: Science – Study and teaching; Computer-assisted instruction; Group work in education
Record ID: 1818776
Full text PDF: http://hdl.rutgers.edu/1782.2/rucore10001600001.ETD.000051090


The dissertation aims to achieve two goals. First, it attempts to establish a new theoretical framework  – the collaborative scientific conceptual change model, which explicitly attends to social factor and epistemic practices of science, to understand conceptual change. Second, it report the findings of a classroom study to investigate how to apply this theoretical framework to examine the trajectories of collaborative scientific conceptual change in a CSCL environment and provide pedagogical implications. Two simulations were designed to help students make connections between the macroscopic substances and the aperceptual microscopic entities and underlying processes. The reported study was focused on analyzing the aggregated data from all participants and the video and audio data from twenty focal groups' collaborative activities and the process of their conceptual development in two classroom settings. Mixed quantitative and qualitative analyses were applied to analyze the video/audio data. The results found that, overall participants showed significant improvements from pretest to posttest on system understanding. Group and teacher effect as well as group variability were detected in both students' posttest performance and their collaborative activities, and variability emerged in group interaction. Multiple data analyses found that attributes of collaborative discourse and epistemic practices made a difference in student learning. Generating warranted claims in discourse as well as the predicting, coordinating theory-evidence, and modifying knowledge in epistemic practices had an impact on student's conceptual understanding. However, modifying knowledge was found negatively related to students' learning effect. The case studies show how groups differed in using the computer tools as a medium to conduct collaborative discourse and epistemic practices. Only with certain combination of discourse features and epistemic practices can the group interaction lead to successful convergent understanding. The results of the study imply that the collaborative scientific conceptual change model is an effective framework to study conceptual change and the simulation environment may mediate the development of successful collaborative interactions (including collaborative discourse and epistemic practices) that lead to collaborative scientific conceptual change.