Explaining behavior through observational investigation and theory articulation

Brian K. Smith*, Brian J. Reiser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Conducting observational investigations of behaviors and processes is an important method for generating scientific knowledge. This article describes a methodology for assisting students in the processes of observational inquiry and theory articulation and its instantiation in a set of digital video tools. We describe a high school biology curriculum where students use these tools to investigate video clips of animal behavior and develop theories about how and why these behaviors evolved. We focus our discussion on an investigation model that scaffolds students through the processes of observing and explaining video as data and the computational and curricula: supports that were designed to make these processes explicit. We conclude with a presentation of preliminary results to illustrate the types of explanations that emerged from working with the software and curriculum and a discussion of issues that emerged during the course of the research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-360
Number of pages46
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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