Multi-theoretic approaches to understanding the science classroom
conference contributionposted on 01.01.2011, 00:00 authored by D Clarke, Lihua XuLihua Xu, J Arnold, L Seah, C Hart, Russell TytlerRussell Tytler, Vaughan PrainVaughan Prain
Multi-camera on-site video technology and post-lesson video stimulated interviews were used in a purposefully inclusive research design to generate a complex data set amenable to parallel analyses from several complementary theoretical perspectives. The symposium reports the results of parallel analyses employing positioning theory, systemic functional linguistics, distributed cognition and representational analysis of the same nine-lesson sequence in a single science classroom during the teaching of a single topic: States of Matter. Without contesting the coherence and value of a well-constructed mono-theoretic research study, the argument is made that all such studies present an inevitably partial account of a setting as complex as the science classroom: privileging some aspects and ignoring others. In this symposium, the first presentation examined the rationale for multi-theoretic research designs, highlighting the dangers of the circular amplification of those constructs predetermined by the choice of theory and outlining the intended benefits of multi-theoretic designs that offer less partial accounts of classroom practice. The second and third presentations reported the results of analyses of the same lesson sequence on the topic “states of matter” using the analytical perspectives of positioning theory and systemic functional linguistics. The final presentation reported the comparative analysis of student learning of density over the same three lessons from distributed cognition and representational perspectives. The research design promoted a form of reciprocal interrogation, where the analyses provided insights into classroom practice and the comparison of the analyses facilitated the reflexive interrogation of the selected theories, while also optimally anticipating the subsequent synthesis of the interpretive accounts generated by each analysis of the same setting for the purpose of informing instructional advocacy.