Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Sarah K. Braden


Sarah K. Braden


Lauren Barth-Cohen


Sherry Marx


Kimberly H. Lott


Kristin Searle


Recent reforms in science education aim to involve K-12 students in practices similar to those of professional scientists. These reforms promote student collaboration and science practices including developing models and engaging in scientific argumentation with evidence. Small group work in science classrooms has increased following the reforms. However, while small group collaboration has gained popularity, research suggests that it does not always lead to equitable participation. This qualitative case study uses discourse analysis to examine how two small groups of students in a seventh-grade science class develop consensus models of a phenomenon and how students are socialized to participate in those small groups.

The results indicate that the groups used four different communicative pathways to include entities in the group consensus model. Each of the four pathways had varying amounts of participation for group members and influenced the consensus process. Analysis of how these pathways unfold during small group work suggests that students formed social hierarchies in the group that influenced participation for each group member. The results demonstrate that while small groups are assigned to create “consensus models,” the final models may not demonstrate true group consensus. There may still be benefits to consensus modeling instruction, however, more research is needed to understand the benefits and to develop instruction that promotes equitable opportunities to participate for all group members.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.