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The role of metaconceptual evaluation in fifth grade students' construction of explanatory models of magnetic phenomena

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Title: The role of metaconceptual evaluation in fifth grade students' construction of explanatory models of magnetic phenomena
Author(s): Cheng, Meng-Fei
Advisor(s): Brown, David E.
Contributor(s): Brown, David E.; Hug, Barbara; Abd-El-Khalick, Fouad; Mestre, Jose
Department / Program: Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline: Elementary Education
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Subject(s): elementary school modeling conceptual resources explanatory model self-developed explanation magnetism metacognition
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate in detail the processes involved when the promotion of metaconceptual evaluation facilitates fifth grade students’ construction, evaluation, and revision of their explanations for magnetic phenomena. Although much recent research emphasized the importance of student modeling and model construction, the topic of magnetism is typically taught as either simply observing magnetic phenomena or as introducing abstract knowledge, without asking students to construct their own models to account for magnetic phenomena. Also, as suggested by educational research, metacognition is important in such model construction. However, little research explores the detailed processes of how metacognition promotes model construction. In this study, a video-taped, multi-session teaching experiment was conducted with a small number of fifth grade students in order to study in detail the interactions between students’ metacognition and their development of explanatory models to account for magnetic phenomena. In this teaching experiment, two small groups received full scaffolding, and two small groups received partial scaffolding. Students in both the fully and partially scaffolded groups were asked to make their own predictions and explanations before observing magnetic phenomena, as well as to make individual explanations and modifications after their observations. Then, they were asked to elaborate on their individual ideas and to discuss them with others in order to select or develop the best group consensus model. In later activities, they were required to compare their current group model with their previous group models. In addition, fully scaffolded groups were explicitly asked to reflect on the metaconceptual modeling criteria of visualization and explanatory power. Multiple sources of data were collected, including transcripts of pre- and post-instructional interviews and activities, as well as the journals and papers students used to record and discuss their ideas. In order to explore how students’ metacognitive processes regulate their cognitive processes, these data were analyzed according to three main aspects: sophistication and coherence of explanations, conceptual resources used, and metaconceptual evaluation. Through reflection on their explanations using these metaconceptual modeling criteria, most students in the fully scaffolded groups gradually developed, evaluated, and revised their explanations to coherent and sophisticated microscopic explanatory models, similar to a simplified version of the scientific domain model of magnetism. They were able to activate, apply, and reorganize appropriate conceptual resources from the observational level to the microscopic level. By contrast, students in the partially scaffolded groups, who relied only on self-generated model-evaluation criteria, lumped together different ideas from different activities, without revising their original ideas toward more coherent and sophisticated explanatory models, so their explanations ended up fragmented and disconnected. They were unable to apply appropriate conceptual resources from the observational level to further hypothesized and unobservable levels. Reflection on the metaconceptual modeling criteria helped the fully scaffolded students to inspect, activate, apply, and reorganize their conceptual resources in order to construct explanatory models with better visualization and greater explanatory power. The results of this research provide instructional implications from a content perspective, a constructivist perspective, and a modeling perspective, on diminishing the gap between how scientists practice science and how science is taught. The present study brings insights into areas of modeling, conceptual resources, and metacognition, and offers recommendations for theory, methodology, and pedagogy.
Issue Date: 2012-05-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30954
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Meng-Fei Cheng
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-05-22
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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