How a Small Group of Middle School Students Engaged with Data and Evidence While Addressing a Local Water Quality Issue


Jaden Turner

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

USU Student Showcase

Publication Date


Faculty Mentor

Brian Belland


Problem based learning is an approach to education where students develop solutions to authentic problems (Hmelo-Silver, 2004) with support from scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976; Reiser, 2004). Computer based scaffolding helps students organize thoughts and arguments while solving problems (Belland, Glazewski & Richardson, 2008). We examined how students from one small group constructed order in their interactions and arguments as they solved an environmental issue using a stakeholder lens. Method Setting and Participants Using stakeholder perspectives (e.g., farmers or the Environmental Protection Agency), seventh-grade students investigated their local river's water quality. Participants were from three periods; two periods were allowed to work with computer-based scaffolding. All students had access to previous water quality data, and online resources. Using an ethnomethodological lens (Garfinkel, 1967), we focus on how a small group from the control condition formulated arguments and constructed order. Data Collection Groups were videotaped during the unit, the presentation, and post-unit interview. The researchers transcribed, coded and analyzed the video data. Results The group proposed only a semi-successful solution because they misconstrued the relevance of online sources and largely neglected their stakeholder position.

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