Community College Research Initiatives

February 14, 2020

New Journal Article on Science Education

We’re thrilled to announce a new STEM publication in Cognition and Instruction that CCRI’s Lia Wetzstein co-authored with former colleagues, Susan Bobbitt Nolan and Alexandra Goodell, from their research together at the LIFE Center, University of Washington.

Keywords: Science education, project-based learning, motivation and engagement, material tools, design-based research, cultural-historical activity theory

Designing Material Tools to Mediate Disciplinary Engagement in Environmental Science

Published online February 4, 2020

Disciplinary activity in science is tool-mediated, and instructional designers often build in opportunities for students to use the conceptual and material tools of the discipline as they engage in activity. When this activity takes place in schools, students and teachers may modify or reject disciplinary tools to fit the goals of schooling. We report collaborative, design-based research to develop and optimize material tools to mediate student and teacher activity in a project-based high school environmental science course along dimensions thought to promote productive disciplinary engagement. We use Engestrom’s Cultural-Historical Activity Theory to understand both the collaborative design process (university-based researchers and classroom teachers) and the implementation in classrooms. In addition to quantitative analyses of student engagement, two cases of design-test-redesign-retest cycles are presented to illustrate our methods and provide evidence for the use of material tools to support productive disciplinary engagement. Based on our research, we suggest design principles for developing material tools to support disciplinary engagement which take into account the necessary hybridity of project-based learning in schools. Implications for design and implementation of project-based science are discussed.

Here is the suggested citation and access the full article:

Susan Bobbitt Nolen, Lia Wetzstein & Alexandra Goodell (2020) Designing Material Tools to Mediate Disciplinary Engagement in Environmental Science, Cognition and Instruction, DOI: 10.1080/07370008.2020.1718677