Building scientific literacy/(IES): a cross-case analysis of how multimodal representations are used to make meaning during scientific inquiry
This study used a Social Semiotic framework to describe the nature of multimodal textual representations created by fourth grade students in a small rural Texas school district south of Dallas in order to answer the question: What is the nature of the multimodal textual representations created by fourth grade students during the scientific inquiry process? Results of the cross case-analysis of the students' digitally recorded reflections, their multimodal representations, and my field notes and personal reflections as a teacher-researcher were indicative of five major themes. Representations created by the students: (a) were supported by scientific learning communities; (b) demonstrated varying abilities to collect both qualitative and quantitative observations; (c) utilized a variety of graphic organizers to communicate/represent scientific information; (d) were influenced by previous instruction and experience; and (e) showed development over time. These findings suggested the need for changes in the learning environment and pedagogy of science as teachers provide environments that support the development of learning communities; provide multiple opportunities for students to make both qualitative and quantitative observations during scientific inquiry; provide explicit instruction into the semiotic tools used by professional scientists to communicate/represent meaning; and allow students the opportunity to reflect, critique, and discuss their representations so that they can learn to be more competent and fluent representors of scientific knowledge. Recommendations for future research included: learning more about the way learning communities scaffold the learning process during scientific inquiry; understanding the best practices for helping students to learn how to make qualitative and quantitative observations of the world around them; describing the best practices for teaching students to be multimodal designers of scientific knowledge;examining the effect of previous instruction on the multimodal representations created by students; and learning more about how to best develop the students representational competency in science.