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Constructive use of authoritative sources in science meaning making
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Paper presented at the 8th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2008, Utrecht, The Netherlands, June 23-28, 2008
The role of authoritative sources of information in a constructivist learning
environment has always been ambiguous, especially in science learning where there is a
bountiful of knowledge readily available in various sources. Taking a social semiotics
perspective in this study, we take the view that authoritative sources are inscriptions of
cultural artifacts and science learning involves meaning making of these cultural artifacts. In
studying the meaning making process of a group of students doing Problem-based Learning,
our findings show that authoritative sources played an important role in deepening and
expanding students’ scientific knowledge. We also found that constructive use of authoritative
sources involves interpretation of meaning in context. Therefore, we conclude that this
structural coupling of authoritative sources and context for meaningful sense making has to be
taken into consideration in the design of learning environment.
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