ELEMENTARY STUDENTS' MULTIPLE REPRESENTATIONS OF THEIR IDEAS ABOUT AIR.
Abstract: This dissertation explores how students generate multiple external
representations of their ideas about air, an "invisible" substance. External
representations can serve a powerful role in placing students' ideas into the external
world for reflection and abstraction. When provided the opportunity to represent their
understandings of science in different ways, students generate ... read moreincreasingly coherent
explanations of what they observe, including developing ideas about mechanisms that
describe cause and effect. In this qualitative study, extended clinical interviews were
conducted with twelve fifth-grade students from an urban public charter school. In study
was designed to investigate students' ideas about air in the context of a linked-syringe
device with the support of multiple representations. Students were given the opportunity to
produce representations and to offer verbal explanations of the behavior of the syringes in
a sequence of three interviews. In the first session, students were introduced to the
linked-syringes, and they generated drawings to explain their thinking about air. In the
second session, students created stop-motion animations of their explanations for air in
the syringes. And in the final session, students built physical devices to demonstrate
their ideas about air. Careful analysis of each individual student's trajectory through the
microgenetic design and a cross-student analysis reveal that the process of generating
multiple representations facilitates how students think and reason about air. Drawings
served to organize elements of the linked-syringe problem, providing students with focal
points on which to direct their reasoning as they generated more precise explanations.
Stop-motion animation supported students' efforts to make sense of processes that change
over time, such as compressing the air inside the syringes. And, the construction of
physical artifacts prompted students to think about air as a substance, as the activity
allowed them to generate analogous physical models of the linked syringes. Furthermore, the
students' productions provided the researcher with enhanced access to the substance of
students' ideas as captured in their representations. The results of this study are
presented in case-study form to highlight how representations serve as embodiments of the
resources that students possess for making sense of science. This dissertation contributes
to the resources perspective of the importance of external representations in students'
development of coherent explanations of what they observe.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Education.
Advisor: Bárbara Brizuela.
Committee: Chris Rogers, Analúcia Schliemann, Nora Scheuer, and Marianne Wiser.
Keywords: Education, General, and Science Education.read less