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Knowledge advancement in environmental science through knowledge building
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Paper presented at the International Science Education Conference, Singapore, 24-26 November 2009
This paper describes how five elementary school students learnt about environmental science and the nature of science as they were engaged in Knowledge Building (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003) during a Nature Learning Camp project. Unlike the emphasis on "doing" in inquiry-based project work, which precludes making cutting edge discoveries by students, Knowledge Building channels students‘ attention on the continual advancement of group ideas and thus opens the way for appropriating the scientific process of knowledge creation. This is because it takes advantage of a young child‘s inquisitiveness to develop him/her to become a mature knowledge producer as he/she pushes up his/her level of understanding. In this study, we tracked the knowledge development of this group of students and its process as they studied about plants. Using qualitative discourse analysis, we found advancement in students‘ ideas about science process skills and the nature of science. However, much support from the teacher was needed for knowledge advancement to take place; the teacher played an important role in engaging the students in sustained talk around the topic and in directing the focus for on their own, students‘ talk was rather shallow and ideas were fleeting. We conclude that to engage students in Knowledge Building effectively, science argumentation skills are important discourse skills to develop.
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