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Learning through constructing representations in science : a framework of representational construction affordances
journal contributionposted on 01.11.2012, 00:00 authored by Vaughan PrainVaughan Prain, Russell TytlerRussell Tytler
Compared with research on the role of student engagement with expert representations in learning science, investigation of the use and theoretical justification of student-generated representations to learn science is less common. In this paper, we present a framework that aims to integrate three perspectives to explain how and why representational construction supports learning in science. The first or semiotic perspective focuses on student use of particular features of symbolic and material tools to make meanings in science. The second or epistemic perspective focuses on how this representational construction relates to the broader picture of knowledge-building practices of inquiry in this disciplinary field, and the third or epistemological perspective focuses on how and what students can know through engaging in the challenge of representing causal accounts through these semiotic tools. We argue that each perspective entails productive constraints on students’ meaning-making as they construct and interpret their own representations. Our framework seeks to take into account the interplay of diverse cultural and cognitive resources students use in these meaning-making processes. We outline the basis for this framework before illustrating its explanatory value through a sequence of lessons on the topic of evaporation.