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Solving professional problems together. the impact of collaboration on pre-service teachers’ scientific reasoning
Solving professional problems together. the impact of collaboration on pre-service teachers’ scientific reasoning
Future professionals should be prepared for scientific reasoning, i.e., to construct and apply scientific knowledge, in order to analyze and solve problems in their professional practice. Yet, future practitioners’ scientific reasoning skills often seem to be deficient when solving practical problems. This dissertation explores to what extent collaboration may foster the engagement of future practitioners in scientific reasoning: i.e., in epistemic processes (e.g., hypothesizing, evaluating evidence) and in referring to scientific content knowledge (e.g., scientific theories and evidence). Therefore, two studies were conducted to compare collaborative and individual problem solving of pre-service teachers regarding their scientific reasoning. Study 1 investigates the effect of group heterogeneity with respect to problem solving scripts on scientific reasoning. Study 2 explores to what extent Epistemic Network Analysis can serve as a methodological approach for measuring scientific reasoning. As part of Study 1, pre-service teachers solved an educational problem either as individuals (N=16) or as pairs (N=30 pairs). Collaboration showed a mixed effect on scientific reasoning processes: pairs engaged more in explaining and reasoning about the problem and drew more conclusions, while individuals engaged more in generating solutions. Additional analyses showed that the more heterogeneous pairs were regarding their members’ problem solving scripts the more they engaged in hypothesizing and evaluating evidence and the less they engaged in generating solutions. Finally, pairs less often referred to scientific content than individuals did during problem solving. Study 2 further analyzed the data by applying Epistemic Network Analysis. This method has the advantage of analyzing patterns of connections between epistemic processes, i.e., epistemic networks of scientific reasoning. The central epistemic process for pairs was evidence evaluation, which they frequently used in combination with hypothesizing and communicating and scrutinizing. On the other hand, the most characteristic process in individuals’ scientific reasoning was solution generation, which very often co-occurred with hypothesizing and evidence evaluation. The overall results indicate that if the aim is to develop a more reflective understanding of the problem, future practitioners should collaborate with each other, especially in heterogeneous settings. However, they should be supported (1) to share knowledge regarding scientific theories and evidence as well as (2) to reach a mutual understanding (e.g., by coordinating explanations) on the problem after a certain time so as to be able to have the capacity of generating solutions. Moreover, the different effects of collaboration on the process and content aspects of scientific reasoning imply that scientific reasoning might not be a unidimensional construct, and its process and content levels should be differentiated in future research. A further important methodological implication is that the process aspect of scientific reasoning can be analyzed as a network of interconnected skills and such analysis might bring more explanatory value than the mere reliance on frequencies of occurrences of isolated activities.
Scientific Reasoning, Epistemic Processes, Collaborative Problem Solving, Group Heterogeneity, Epistemic Network Analysis
Csanadi, Andras
2017
English
Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Csanadi, Andras (2017): Solving professional problems together: the impact of collaboration on pre-service teachers’ scientific reasoning. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
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Abstract

Future professionals should be prepared for scientific reasoning, i.e., to construct and apply scientific knowledge, in order to analyze and solve problems in their professional practice. Yet, future practitioners’ scientific reasoning skills often seem to be deficient when solving practical problems. This dissertation explores to what extent collaboration may foster the engagement of future practitioners in scientific reasoning: i.e., in epistemic processes (e.g., hypothesizing, evaluating evidence) and in referring to scientific content knowledge (e.g., scientific theories and evidence). Therefore, two studies were conducted to compare collaborative and individual problem solving of pre-service teachers regarding their scientific reasoning. Study 1 investigates the effect of group heterogeneity with respect to problem solving scripts on scientific reasoning. Study 2 explores to what extent Epistemic Network Analysis can serve as a methodological approach for measuring scientific reasoning. As part of Study 1, pre-service teachers solved an educational problem either as individuals (N=16) or as pairs (N=30 pairs). Collaboration showed a mixed effect on scientific reasoning processes: pairs engaged more in explaining and reasoning about the problem and drew more conclusions, while individuals engaged more in generating solutions. Additional analyses showed that the more heterogeneous pairs were regarding their members’ problem solving scripts the more they engaged in hypothesizing and evaluating evidence and the less they engaged in generating solutions. Finally, pairs less often referred to scientific content than individuals did during problem solving. Study 2 further analyzed the data by applying Epistemic Network Analysis. This method has the advantage of analyzing patterns of connections between epistemic processes, i.e., epistemic networks of scientific reasoning. The central epistemic process for pairs was evidence evaluation, which they frequently used in combination with hypothesizing and communicating and scrutinizing. On the other hand, the most characteristic process in individuals’ scientific reasoning was solution generation, which very often co-occurred with hypothesizing and evidence evaluation. The overall results indicate that if the aim is to develop a more reflective understanding of the problem, future practitioners should collaborate with each other, especially in heterogeneous settings. However, they should be supported (1) to share knowledge regarding scientific theories and evidence as well as (2) to reach a mutual understanding (e.g., by coordinating explanations) on the problem after a certain time so as to be able to have the capacity of generating solutions. Moreover, the different effects of collaboration on the process and content aspects of scientific reasoning imply that scientific reasoning might not be a unidimensional construct, and its process and content levels should be differentiated in future research. A further important methodological implication is that the process aspect of scientific reasoning can be analyzed as a network of interconnected skills and such analysis might bring more explanatory value than the mere reliance on frequencies of occurrences of isolated activities.