Type of Document Dissertation Author Golden, Barry Wade URN etd-07112011-175031 Title Middle School Studentsí Conceptual Change In Global Climate Change: Using Argumentation to Foster Knowledge Construction Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Teacher Education, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Sherry A. Southerland Committee Chair Jeffrey Milligan Committee Member Vic Sampson Committee Member Paul Ruscher University Representative Keywords
- global warming education
- conceptual change
- climate change education
Date of Defense 2011-06-10 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis research examined middle school student conceptions about global climate change (GCC) and the change these conceptions undergo during an argument driven instructional unit. The theoretical framework invoked for this study is the framework theory of conceptual change (Vosniadou, 2007a). This theory posits that students do not simply correct incorrect ideas with correct ones, but instead weigh incoming ideas against already existing explanatory frameworks, which have likely served the learner well to this point. The research questions were as follows:
1. What are the patterns of studentsí conceptual change in GCC?
a. What conceptions are invoked in student learning in this arena?
b. What conceptions are most influential?
c. What are the extra-rational factors influencing conceptual change in GCC?
This research took place in an urban public school in a medium sized city in the southeastern United States. A sixth grade science teacher at Central Middle school, Ms. Octane, taught a course titled ďResearch Methods IĒ, which was an elective science course that students took as part of a science magnet program.
A unit was designed for 6th grade instruction that incorporated an Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) approach, centered on the subject matter of Global Climate change and Global Warming. Students were immersed in three separate lessons within the unit, each of which featured an emphasis upon creating scientific explanations based upon evidence. Additionally, each of the lessons placed a premium on students working towards the development of such explanations as a part of a group, with an emphasis on peer review of the robustness of the explanations proposed. .
The students were involved in approximately a two week unit emphasizing global climate change. This unit was based on an argumentation model that provided data to students and asked them to develop explanations that accounted for the data. The students then underwent a peer-review process to determine if their explanations could be modified to better account for the data as pointed out by peers.
As the students experienced the three lessons comprising the unit, data were taken of various modes, including pre-unit, mid-unit, post-unit, and delayed-post unit interviews, observer notes from the classroom, and artifacts created by the students as individuals and as members of a group. At the end of the unit, a written post-assessment was administered, and post-interviews were conducted with the selected students.
These varied data sources were analyzed in order to develop themes corresponding to their frameworks of climate change. Negative cases were sought in order to test developing themes. Themes that emerged from the data were triangulated across the various data sources in order to ensure quality and rigor. These themes were then used to construct understandings of various studentsí frameworks of the content.
Several findings emerged from this research. The first finding is that each student underwent some conceptual change regarding GCC, although of varying natures. The studentsí synthetic frameworks of GCC were more complex than their initial, or naÔve frameworks. Some characteristics of the naÔve frameworks included that the students tended to conflate climate change with a broader, generic category of environmental things. Examples of this conflation include the idea that climate change entails general pollution, litter, and needless killing of dolphins while fishing for tuna. This research suggests that students might benefit from explicit attention to this concept in terms of an ontological category, with the ideal synthetic view realizing that GCC is itself an example of an emergent process. Another characteristic of their naÔve frameworks includes some surprisingly accurate notions of GCC, including a general sense that temperatures and sea levels are rising. At the same time, none of the students were able to adequately invoke data to support their understandings of GCC. Instead, when data were invoked, students tended to include anecdotal information.
Studentsí synthetic frameworks showed great improvements in these and other aspects. Each student without exception made great strides in reference to data invoked to explain his or her position. The data analyzed show evidence of epistemic scaffolding in that the studentsí poor ability to invoke evidence was improved through the experience in the argumentation unit.
This research also suggests that each studentís learning was greatly impacted by his or her own affective tendencies and understandings. Darko provided an example of this called belief identification (Cederblom, 1989), in that he stated that his anti-global warming beliefs are the same as those of his family. Other affective factors of note included self-efficacy and fascination with animals.
While each studentís understanding of GCC grew substantially, an explanation of their growth was offered with reference to four major categories: Ontological, Epistemological, Analytical, and Affective. In order to understand any one studentís conceptual change, a thorough accounting of each of these factors needs to be examined. This research described the interaction of these factors for these students.
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