Print version of

Journal Contents

all articles of volume 13 issue 3 | return to Journal Contents

Article of Volume 13, Issue 3, September 2018

Why and how do middle school students exchange ideas during science inquiry?

Authors: Camillia Matuk, Marcia C. Linn

Abstract: Science is increasingly characterized by participation in knowledge communities. To meaningfully engage in science inquiry, students must be able to evaluate diverse sources of information, articulate informed ideas, and share ideas with peers. This study explores how technology can support idea exchanges in ways that value individuals’ prior ideas, and allow students to use these ideas to benefit their own and their peers’ learning. We used the Idea Manager, a curriculum-integrated tool that enables students to collect and exchange ideas during science inquiry projects. We investigated how students exchanged ideas, how these exchanges impacted the explanations they ultimately produced, and how the tool impacted teachers’ instruction. We implemented the tool with 297 grade 7 students, who were studying a web-based unit on cancer and cell division. Among other results, we found a relationship between the diversity of students’ ideas, and the sources of those ideas (i.e., whether they came from the students themselves or from their peers), and the quality of students’ scientific explanations. Specifically, students who collected more unique ideas (i.e., ideas not already represented in their private idea collections) as opposed to redundant ideas (i.e., ideas that reiterated ideas already present in their private idea collections) tended to write poorer explanations; and students who generated their own redundant ideas, as opposed to choosing peers’ ideas that were redundant, tended to write better explanations. We discuss implications for formative assessment, and for the role of technology in supporting students to engage more meaningfully with peers’ ideas.

Keywords: Science inquiry, Middle school, Web-based curricula, Social technologies, Knowledge repositories, Student learning

Citation: Matuk, C., Linn, M.C. (2018) Why and how do middle school students exchange ideas during science inquiry?. ijcscl 13 (3), pp. 263-299

DOI: 10.1007/s11412-018-9282-1

Preprint: Acrobat-PDF matuk_linn_13_3.pdf

About this article at [] including a link to the official electronic version.