Nani Teig & Fredrik Jensen

Abstract

Constructing scientific explanations to make sense of natural phenomena is a crucial aim in science education. This key science practice has also plays a significant role in educational reforms around the world. To construct a scientific explanation, students need to identify the phenomenon that will be explained, then to find evidence and theories that could be used to explain it, and finally, through reasoning, students need to justify the link between the phenomenon and the resources used to explain it. In this study, we examine students’ progression to construct scientific explanation using phenomenon, evidence, theories, and reasoning by leveraging log data from the PISA 2015 field trial study, specifically from the Running in Hot Weather unit. Based on the aspects of scientific explanation that students demonstrated, we classified their progressions into three different stages. In Stage 1, almost all students were able to identify the phenomenon under investigation. However, although most students generated relevant data to explain the identified phenomenon, only two third of them selected these data as an appropriate evidence to support their explanations (Stage 2). Furthermore, only less than half of the students reached Stage 3 by applying scientific reasoning in order to justify the mechanism that links the phenomenon, evidence, and theory. We further identified students’ behavioural patterns underlying the three stages of progression to shed light on why some students were more successful than others in constructing complex scientific explanations. We discuss the implications of these findings for teacher education and professional development that aim to support student engagement in science practices.

Keywords: Inquiry, log file, PISA, reasoning, scientific explanation