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Learning in the third space : a sociocultural perspective on learning with analogies

  • Bellocchi, Alberto
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2009
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive
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Research on analogies in science education has focussed on student interpretation of teacher and textbook analogies, psychological aspects of learning with analogies and structured approaches for teaching with analogies. Few studies have investigated how analogies might be pivotal in students’ growing participation in chemical discourse. To study analogies in this way requires a sociocultural perspective on learning that focuses on ways in which language, signs, symbols and practices mediate participation in chemical discourse. This study reports research findings from a teacher-research study of two analogy-writing activities in a chemistry class. The study began with a theoretical model, Third Space, which informed analyses and interpretation of data. Third Space was operationalized into two sub-constructs called Dialogical Interactions and Hybrid Discourses. The aims of this study were to investigate sociocultural aspects of learning chemistry with analogies in order to identify classroom activities where students generate Dialogical Interactions and Hybrid Discourses, and to refine the operationalization of Third Space. These aims were addressed through three research questions. The research questions were studied through an instrumental case study design. The study was conducted in my Year 11 chemistry class at City State High School for the duration of one Semester. Data were generated through a range of data collection methods and analysed through discourse analysis using the Dialogical Interactions and Hybrid Discourse sub-constructs as coding categories. Results indicated that student interactions differed between analogical activities and mathematical problem-solving activities. Specifically, students drew on discourses other than school chemical discourse to construct analogies and their growing participation in chemical discourse was tracked using the Third Space model as an interpretive lens. Results of this study led to modification of the theoretical model adopted at the beginning of the study to a new model called Merged Discourse. Merged Discourse represents the mutual relationship that formed during analogical activities between the Analog Discourse and the Target Discourse. This model can be used for interpreting and analysing classroom discourse centred on analogical activities from sociocultural perspectives. That is, it can be used to code classroom discourse to reveal students’ growing participation with chemical (or scientific) discourse consistent with sociocultural perspectives on learning.

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