Designing a Physics Curriculum for Developing Students' Science Competencies

Project Number
OER 11/11 JY

Project Duration
January 2012 - September 2015


Developing scientific explanation, engagement in scientific argumentation and the use of scientific representations for communication are essential competencies in the practices of science (National Research Council, 2008). Scientific argumentation is believed to be the vehicle to theory building (Osborne & Patterson, 2011) while scientific representations are the semiotic tools which scientists use to communicate their ideas to one another (Lemke, 1998). To learn science is thus to be enculturated in these practices. While these competencies have been of interest to many science education researchers, they have been either studied individually or sometimes conflated with one another. For example, studies on argumentation focused mainly on quality of scientific argumentation (e.g., Kuhn, Goh, Fordamon, & Shaenfield, 2005), while those on scientific explanation tend to focus on the quality of explanation generated by students, rather than the process (e.g., Sandoval & Millwood, 2005). There are indication in some studies (e.g., McNeil & Krajcik, 2008) that show conflation between explanation and argumentation. Studies on scientific visualization tend to be linguistic-based (e.g., Lemke, 1991; Brown, 2008). Yet, their interrelationship in theory building warrants the need to study them holistically and to understand this linkage. This project thus aims to develop a model for these competencies as well as a framework for understand students' meaning-making in science inquiry classrooms. Using a design research approach, this project also aims to develop curriculum strategies and classroom teaching strategies to support the development of scientific competencies in students as the theory driving the pedagogy is refined. Using a iterative design and development of both theory and practice, it will draw upon findings from existing NIE research that looks at scientific argumentation in Knowledge Building classrooms (e.g., R8019.735.ES08) and scientfiic explanation in inquiry classrooms (OER 13/08JY) as baseline data to construct a working model of scientific competencies and meaning-making. Subsequent cycles of this design research refine these frameworks as well as pedagogical strategies. The outcomes of this project will potentially contribute towards the understanding of developing and assessing students' scientific practices in science inquiry classrooms among science educators as well as science education researchers. It will also provide practitioners useful tools which can be used in their science classrooms to develop students' scientific competencies.

Research Themes

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 12 (2013): Experiencing Science through Modelling

NIE Research Spotlight: OER 11/11 JY

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