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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Optimizing the orchestration of resemiotization with teacher "talk moves" : a model of guided-inquiry instruction in middle school science

  • Author(s): Millstone, Rachel Diana
  • et al.

The current conceptualization of science set forth by the National Research Council (2008) is one of science as a social activity, rather than a view of science as a fixed body of knowledge. This requires teachers to consider how communication, processing, and meaning-making contribute to science learning. It also requires teachers to think deeply about what constitutes knowledge and understanding in science, and what types of instruction are most conducive to preparing students to participate meaningfully in the society of tomorrow. Because argumentation is the prominent form of productive talk leading to the building of new scientific knowledge, one indicator of successful inquiry lies in students' abilities to communicate their scientific understandings in scientific argumentation structures. The overarching goal of this study is to identify factors that promote effective inquiry-based instruction in middle school science classrooms, as evidenced in students' abilities to engage in quality argumentation with their peers. Three specific research questions were investigated: 1) What factors do teachers identify in their practice as significant to the teaching and learning of science? 2) What factors do students identify as significant to their learning of science? and 3) What factors affect students' opportunities and abilities to achieve sophisticated levels of argumentation in the classroom? Two teachers and forty students participated in this study. Four principle sources of data were collected over a three-month period of time. These included individual teacher interviews, student focus group interviews, fieldnotes, and approximately 85 hours of classroom videotape. From this sample, four pathways for guided-inquiry instruction are identified. Opportunities for student talk were influenced by a combination of factors located in the domains of "teacher practice," "classroom systems," and "physical structures." Combinations of elements from these three dimensions also affected the quality of student argumentation, as measured on a five-point rubric developed for analysis. Of the four pathways, one in particular is identified as a model of "best practice," leading to the highest levels of argumentation resulting from opportunities for student resemiotization mediated by teacher "talk moves."

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