Developing an Alternative Perspective on Coherence Seeking in Science Classrooms
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Education research continues to struggle with how to characterize students' engagement in the doing of science. Too often, educators and researchers reduce doing science to learning particular facts and explanations, or participating in narrowly-defined, de-contextualized ways of reasoning and arguing. In this dissertation, I review prominent work that attempts to characterize students' engagement in one aspect of doing science--seeking coherence. By seeking coherence, I mean trying to make information "hang together" in meaningful, mutually consistent ways. Using examples from a variety of science classrooms, I show that these prominent approaches fail to provide substantive accounts of students' work to form connections between information. To address those weaknesses, I develop, refine and illustrate an alternative perspective on coherence seeking in science education, one that emphasizes what information students are trying to fit together, how they are trying to fit it together, and toward what ends.