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The lifespan and impact of students’ ideas shared during classroom science inquiry

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Sharing ideas can strengthen students’ science explanations. Yet, how to guide uses of peers’ ideas, and what the impacts of those ideas are on students’ learning, are open questions. We implemented a web-based cell biology unit with 116 grade 7 students, and explored how peers’ ideas are used during explanation building, and how prompts to draw on peers to either diversify or reinforce existing ideas impacted the quality of students’ written explanations. Among other findings, exchanging ideas with peers led to all students improving their explanation quality upon revision; and students prompted to diversify their ideas showed greater learning gains by the end of the unit, while students prompted to reinforce ideas, who used more peer-generated ideas in preparation to write their explanations, produced higher quality explanations. This study builds our understanding of the influence of peer ideas on learning, and offers insight into supporting students in engaging effectively with peers’ ideas.

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