Understanding the interplay between physics knowledge construction and the changing status of social bonds during science inquiry

Year: 2019

Author: Bellocchi, Alberto

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study focuses on a group of high school students co-constructing knowledge about forces forms. It explores the fluctuating status of relationships, or social bonds, between these students during the course of a physics science inquiry project. The study reveals the interplay between social bonds and the process of constructing knowledge about Newton’s Laws of Motion. Despite existing understandings of the role that affective factors such as emotions and social bonds play in teaching and learning generally and science education more specifically, direct investigation of the relationships between knowledge construction and social bonding remains under-researched. Past survey research has found that social bonds correlate with student achievement, engagement, and positive learning outcomes. Although this previous body of work identifies possible connections between learning and social bonds, the dynamic nature of these phenomena as they unfold during classroom interactions requires more direct methods of data production and analysis that move beyond self reports. Multiple data production methods used in this study included video recordings of classroom interactions, a social bond diary, and researcher observations. Data sets generated through these methods facilitated access to students' first-person perspectives about their social bonds and the researcher’s third person theoretical interpretations of social bonds and knowledge construction in the student group. The fluidity and ambiguity of young people’s relationships and how they must navigate these ambivalent experiences while seeking to understand and apply science concepts during inquiry projects is presented. Although school science focuses on preparing students to design valid investigations and learn important science concepts, this study raises questions about what informs young people’s understanding and ability to manage social bonds to support intended learning outcomes. Implications are shared for a viable research agenda that is likely to benefit and enhance science learning and teaching, while supporting the development of social cohesion and solidarity amongst high school students.

Keywords:social bonds, conceptual understanding, Newton’s Laws, social relationships, science inquiry, learning progressions