Children’s Use of Inscriptions in Argumentation About Socioscientific Issues

Inscriptions are graphical representations of information or ideas, including things like photos, diagrams, graphs, tables, and so on. In science, inscriptions are a crucial means for representing the world and supporting or refuting explanations about how the world works. This project will explore how children in the upper level grades use scientific (graphs, tables, etc.) and non-scientific (photos, editorial cartoons, etc.) inscriptions to make arguments about socioscientific issues. Socioscientific issues are those where science can inform the judgments or decisions we have to make, such as how to deal with climate change, energy use, health, and so on. Being able to use science to make sense of everyday situations is a longstanding goal of education and central to new science education and common core standards. In this project, students in Mr. North’s and Ms. Deblasio’s science classes will be asked to analyze two socioscientific issues, one early in the school year, and one following the first semester. These tasks will present students with a scenario (such as whether to use coal or nuclear energy), provide a variety of scientific and non-scientific inscriptions, and ask students to argue for their position on the issue using as many of the available inscriptions they think necessary. Between these two tasks, science instruction in the classes will be observed, as the teachers work to promote students’ work to make scientific explanations and coordinate evidence for them. Understanding how children use these various forms of evidence, and how instruction influences that use, will aid the development of models for educators to use to address new reform goals. The study will be conducted by Mr. Sihan Xiao, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA, under the supervision of Professor William Sandoval, of GSEIS. Any questions about the study may be directed to Prof. Sandoval at (310) 794 5431 or