The “Principle Maker” is a tool used in the “Thermodynamics: Probing Your Surrounding” TELS project (Clark & Sampson, 2007). Using this tool students create general principles that summarize their understanding of data collection and simulations from previous stages in the project. The students use a series of pull-down menus in order to construct a principle. Each pull-down menu gives a list of possible phrases to choose from. These predefined phrases represent components of principles students typically use to describe heat flow and thermal equilibrium that were identified through the conceptual change literature.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
The principle maker helps students synthesize a principle to describe data that they have collected or found in light of other evidence from their classroom and homes. By providing building-block phrases, the tool scaffolds the task and gives students clear guideposts for content without dictating ideas.
Context of Use:
This feature is part of a TELS project called Thermodynamics: Probing Your Surroundings (#16933)
Research conducted by Clark and Sampson (2007) suggests that scaffolding students in the creation of principles helps make student ideas explicit. Clark and Sampson take advantage of the principles students build to set up discussions that include groups with opposing ideas. They argue that this process promotes dialogical argumentation. By making thinking visible, the principle maker enables a more sophisticated form of argumentation than found in typical science classrooms. As a result students have a good sense of the views of their peers and can spend their time supporting, evaluating, and critiquing ideas.
Clark, D., B. and Sampson, V. (submitted). Characteristics of students’ argumentation practices when supported by personally-seeded discussions. Journal of the Learning Sciences.
Clark, D., B. and Sampson, V. (2007). Personally-seeded discussions to scaffold online argumentation. International Journal of Science Education.
Kali, Y., Fortus, D., & Ronen-Fuhrmann, T. (in press). Synthesizing TELS and CCMS design knowledge. In Y. Kali, M. C. Linn & J. E. Roseman (Eds.), Designing Coherent Science Education. NY: Teachers College Press.