A dual-role theory of scientific reasoning
Michael Ford

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pittsburgh

Primary Discipline

Science education
From a sociocultural perspective, learning occurs through engagement in community practices. Practices that distinguish science from other knowledge-producing disciplines are those that provide authority for knowledge claims. Recent philosophy of science has identified these practices in terms of both the material and social aspects of science, which I have distilled into the dual roles of constructor and critiquer. Under this view, learning to reason in a fundamentally scientific way requires that students engage these roles authentically—in the same ways and for the same purposes these roles interact in scientific communities.The present study will engage students authentically in construction and critique, using a previously developed classroom activity design. The aim of this study is to identify, in detail, how and what students learn from this engagement. Two 10-day studies in high school physics classrooms will be conducted in years 1 and 2, each iteration assigning students randomly to treatment and control conditions. Video and audio records of instruction will be collected, both during whole class discussions and during individual group work, to address the question (1) How does student engagement in the dual roles of constructor and critiquer develop, and how do these aspects of reasoning bootstrap each other? Following instruction, students will be presented with knowledge claims both in and out of the content area of their inquiry. Student responses during interviews about these will address the question (2) How is student ability to scrutinize and learn scientific content enhanced by their instructional engagement in construction and critique?This study will support a reconceptualization of what it means to reason scientifically, tying together concerns of science educators traditionally considered separate. My previous research suggests that knowing how to appropriately play the constructor and critiquer roles is fundamental to an ability to conduct inquiry. This study explores the conjecture that this knowledge also can support scientific literacy and student ability to make sense of scientific content.
About Michael Ford

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