In this study, we examine the communicative demands placed on third grade students through their participation in a solar technology design and construction project. Drawing from sociocultural studies of science in schools and other settings, we used a discourse analytic approach to identity what students in this class needed to understand and express in order to complete this technical design and construction project. Our analysis identified six broad categories of discourse practices constructed by the members of the classroom across the academic activities. Students were required to engage in a variety of discourses as they defined roles with other student members of their small groups, negotiated ways of accomplishing the academic task, presented their ideas and products to multiple audiences, and distributed credit among student group members. Participation in this instructional approach afforded students opportunities to learn science as they participated in cycles of design, presentation, and production of their solar devices. We consider the technological design and construction activities in the context of educational reform through a discussion of the state and national science education standards. Educational implications are drawn focusing on the value of communication in inquiry, the use of ideas-in-progress, the assessment of student knowledge through discourse, and the ways educational discourse processes are situated in cultural practices.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Language and Linguistics
- Linguistics and Language