Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Victor R. Lee


Victor R. Lee


Deborah Fields


Kristin Searle


Eadric Bressel


Amy Wilson-Lopez


Our understanding of how the world works is shaped through countless interactions with things in it. These interactions are our first exposure to science. Through them, we learn that heavy things are hard to push and books do not fall through tables. Our interactions are also shaped by the rules of the groups to which we belong (e.g., families, religious organizations, athletic teams). These rules lead us to accept that some things cannot or should not be done, limiting our interactions with the world. At the same time, these rules change our appreciation for what we do experience.

Prior research has focused largely on the separate influences of either physical interactions or social interactions, leaving (relatively) unexplored their combined effects. In this dissertation, I describe how adults understand science related to their long-term participation in a recreational road bicycling group. The cyclists demonstrated a rich understanding of gearing and air resistance that paralleled, on a practical level, the explanations taught in school. This understanding was shaped by the cyclists’ years of physical experience interpreted in light of their individual goals for participating. For the cyclists in this study, knowing the science helped them be more efficient and faster riders. In the end, this study supports the idea that productive and valuable learning takes place in many settings and that it is important to account for the relationship between the social and physical aspects of learning when designing instructional experiences.