Towards a taxonomy of explanations in science education

Barbara White, Jennifer L Chiu, Lauren Barth-Cohen, Beat Schwendimann, Eric Berson, Jennifer King Chen, Hillary Lucille Swanson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


One major goal of science education is for students to develop sophisticated explanations of the natural world (NRC, 2000). Scientists create and revise conceptual scientific models that they employ to develop and refine explanations. Scientists also have distinct forms and criteria for accepted explanations. Likewise, inquiry-based teaching enables students to ask questions, develop conceptual models and explanations, and critique and refine their explanations. However, students build upon existing, everyday ideas to make explanations that are different than those of scientists and judge explanations differently than the way that scientists judge them (Brewer, Chinn & Samarapungavan, 1998). Most existing approaches evaluate students' explanations along scientific criteria and overlook learners' existing ideas and skills in generating explanations. Instruction that encourages students to use, distinguish and refine these existing ideas can promote sophisticated and robust explanations (Linn & Eylon, 2006).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICLS 2010 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publication9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences
EditorsKimberly Gomez, Leilah Lyons, Joshua Radinsky
PublisherInternational Society of the Learning Sciences
Number of pages3
ISBN (Print)978-0578064802
StatePublished - 2010


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