A Multiple Perspective Analysis of the Role of Language in Inquiry Science Learning: To Build a Tower

Michael Kamen , Wolff-Michael Roth , Lawerence B. Flick , Bonnie Shapiro , Laura Barden , Elizabeth Kean , Stephen Marble , Jay Lemke


The role of language in science learning is coming into focus for science education researchers
from a number of perspectives. With a constructivist paradigm dominating the field, language is
being explored for its role in facilitating and assessing learning and in understanding complex
interactions related to science teaching and learning. This paper, by opening a window onto a
variety of techniques, methods, and approaches to the analysis of one short discussion between
several elementary students, presents the opportunity to continue and enhance the dialogue about
ways to research and understand children's discourse during science activities. The purpose of
this paper is to clarify issues relating to the interaction between language and science learning
and to relate these issues to different theoretical perspectives. From this "discourse about
discourse" the authors identify and share avenues for further research, including methodological
approaches and implications for the classroom teacher. The researchers examine a two-and-one-
half minute videotape of three boys constructing a tower of plastic drinking straws as part of a
unit called "Engineering for Children: Structures" which was presented in a mixed fourth- and
fifth-grade class.


Science; Education;Physics

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