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“If It Lived Here, It Would Die.” Children’s Use of Materials as Semiotic Resources in Group Discussions About Evolution
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Learning, Aesthetics, Natural science. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences. (TekNaD)
2018 (English)In: Journal of Research in Childhood Education, ISSN 0256-8543, E-ISSN 2150-2641, Vol. 32, no 3, p. 251-267Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

With the aim of exploring how children discuss underlying reasons forevolution and how materials function in children’s meaning making processes,this article provides insight into how evolution theory can beintroduced in preschool and in the early years of primary school. Videodata from eight group discussions (N = 27) were analyzed using a multimodalperspective. Despite not having had any formal instruction aboutevolution theory, the 6-year-old children in this study made use of theirprevious experiences and the materials to make meaning and argue fordifferent reasons for animal diversity. The results show that the children’sdiscussions concerned four conceptual themes: animals are differentbecause of kinship and heredity, environmental effects, the need for adaptation,and the need for geographic separation. The children used theprovided materials, comprising photographs, figurines, and a topographicworld map, as resources for providing meaning, as argumentative tools, andas tools for communication. By making observations in a logical and scientificway, the children spontaneously discussed similarities and differencesin traits, which implies that variation might be a fruitful way to introduceevolution theory to preschool children.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London and New York: Taylor & Francis, 2018. Vol. 32, no 3, p. 251-267
Keywords [en]
Early childhood; group discussion; materials; meaning making; science
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-150935DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2018.1465497OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-150935DiVA, id: diva2:1245662
Available from: 2018-09-05 Created: 2018-09-05 Last updated: 2019-09-02Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Encountering Evolution: Children's Meaning-Making Processes in Collaborative Interactions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Encountering Evolution: Children's Meaning-Making Processes in Collaborative Interactions
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores preschool class children’s meaning making processes when they encounter evolution. By adopting social semiotic and sociocultural perspectives on meaning making, three group-based tasks were designed. Video data from the activities were analysed using a multimodal approach. The analysis focuses on how the communicated science content affects the science focus of the tasks, how different materials function as semiotic resources and influence meaning making, and interactive aspects of doing science in the meaning-making processes.

The findings reveal that, by using the provided materials and their previous experiences, the children argue for different reasons for animal diversity and evolution. Throughout the tasks, a child-centric view of life emerged in a salient manner. This means that, apart from the science focus, the children also emphasise other aspects that they find important. The child-centric perspective is suggested to be a strength that enables children to engage in science activities.

The results show that the provided materials had three functions. Children use materials as resources providing meaning. This means that the children draw on the meaning potential of the materials, a process that is influenced by their previous experiences. Moreover, in interaction with peers, the materials also serve as communicative and argumentative tools. Thus, access to materials influences the children’s meaning making and enables them to discuss evolution and “do science”.

The findings also reveal an intimate relationship between task context and interaction. More scripted tasks convey more child–adult interaction (scaffolding) while less scripted tasks, during which children build on previous experiences instead of communicated science content, stimulates child–child interaction (mutual collaboration). In scaffolding interactions, a greater emphasis is placed on the science topic of the task due to guidance from the adult. Consequently, meanings made by children in more scripted tasks are more likely to be “scientifically correct”. However, if the teacher or the adult steps back and allows the children to engage in mutual collaboration, they engage in multiple ways of doing science through evaluating, observing, describing and comparing.

Overall, the research reported in this thesis suggests that task contexts and materials have a great impact on children’s meaning making and how science is done.

Abstract [sv]

Den här avhandlingen utforskar förskolebarns meningsskapandeprocesser kring evolution. Tre gruppbaserade aktiviteter har designats. Videodata har analyserats utifrån ett multimodalt perspektiv på kommunikation. Analysen fokuserar på hur kommunicerade naturvetenskapliga beskrivningar av evolution påverkar aktiviteternas naturvetenskapliga fokus, materials funktion som semiotiska resurser och påverkan på meningsskapande och interaktiva aspekter av att göra naturvetenskap.

Avhandlingens resultat visar att barnen, genom att använda material och sina tidigare erfarenheter, för olika resonemang kring varför djur utvecklas och blir olika. Genomgående har barnens syn på världen en betydande roll för meningsskapandeprocessen. Det betyder att barnen, förutom att fokusera på det naturvetenskapliga innehållet i aktiviteterna, också lägger stor vikt vid andra aspekter som är viktiga för dem. Det barncentrerade perspektivet förslås vara en styrka som möjliggör för barn att delta i och engageras av naturvetenskapliga aktiviteter.

De material som barnen har tillgång till de i de olika aktiviteterna har tre funktioner. Barnen använder material som meningsgivande resurser, vilket betyder att barnen använder materialens meningspotential. Denna process påverkas av barnens tidigare erfarenheter. Vidare används materialen som kommunikativa- och argumentativa redskap i interaktion med andra. Tillgången till material påverkar således barnens meningsskapande och möjliggör att de kan diskutera evolution påverkar barnens naturvetenskapliga handlande.

Avhandlingens resultat visar på en nära relation mellan uppgifters kontext och interaktion. Mer styrda aktiviteter medför mer interaktion mellan barn och vuxna (scaffolding). Mindre styrda aktiviteter, där barnen bygger på sina tidigare erfarenheter, stimulerar istället interaktion mellan barnen (mutual collaboration). Som ett resultat av den vuxnes agerande, läggs det större vikt vid det naturvetenskapliga innehållet (evolution) i scaffolding-interaktioner. Följaktligen är de meningar som skapas i mer styrda aktiviteter mer i linje med naturvetenskapliga förklaringar till evolution. Samtidigt finns det ett samband mellan att den vuxne kliver åt sidan och att barnen kliver fram och gör naturvetenskapliga handlingar som att utvärdera, observera, beskriva och jämföra.

Sammanfattningsvis visar den här avhandlingen att uppgifters kontext och material har stor påverkan på barns meningsskapande och hur de gör naturvetenskap.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2019. p. 122
Series
Studies in Science and Technology Education, ISSN 1652-5051 ; 107
Keywords
Meaning-making processes, Science Education, Evolution, Multimodality, Collaborative Interaction, Exploratory studies, Meningsskapandeprocesser, Naturvetenskapsundervisning, Evolution, Multimodalitet, Interaktion, Explorativa studier
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-159786 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-159786 (DOI)9789176850053 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-10-04, K2, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-08-21 Created: 2019-08-21 Last updated: 2019-09-02Bibliographically approved

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