Login | Register

Enhancing Students’ Conceptual Understanding by Engaging Science Text with Reflective Writing as a Hermeneutical Circle


Enhancing Students’ Conceptual Understanding by Engaging Science Text with Reflective Writing as a Hermeneutical Circle

Kalman, Calvin S. (2011) Enhancing Students’ Conceptual Understanding by Engaging Science Text with Reflective Writing as a Hermeneutical Circle. Science & Education, 20 (2). pp. 159-172. ISSN 0926-7220

PDF - Accepted Version

Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11191-010-9298-z


Students can have great difficulty reading scientific texts and trying to cope with the professor in the classroom. Part of the reason for students’ difficulties is that for a student taking a science gateway course the language, ontology and epistemology of science are akin to a foreign culture. There is thus an analogy between such a student and an anthropologist spending time among a native group in some remote part of the globe. This brings us naturally to the subject of hermeneutics. It is through language that we attempt to understand an alien culture. The hermeneutical circle involves the interplay between our construct of the unfamiliar with our own outlook that deepens with each pass. It can be argued that for novice students to acquire a full understanding of scientific texts, they also need to pursue a recurrent construction of their comprehension of scientific concepts. In this paper it is shown how an activity, reflective-writing, can enhance students’ understanding of concepts in their textbook by getting students to approach text in the manner of a hermeneutical circle. This is illustrated using studies made at three post-secondary institutions.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Physics
Item Type:Article
Authors:Kalman, Calvin S.
Journal or Publication:Science & Education
Date:February 2011
ID Code:7151
Deposited On:22 Mar 2011 14:56
Last Modified:22 Mar 2011 14:56
1.Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Hurley, M. M., & Wilkinson, B. (2004). The effects of school-based writing-to-learn interventions on academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 74, 29–58.

2.Bevilacqua, F., & Giannetto, E. (1995). Hermeneutics and science education: The role of history of science. Science & Education, 4, 115–126.

3.Britton, J., Burgess, T., Martin, N., McLeod, A., & Rosen, H. (1975). The development of writing abilities (pp. 11–18). London, UK: Macmillan.

4.Chi, M. T. H., & Roscoe, R. D. (2002). The processes and challenges of conceptual change. In M. Limón & L. Mason (Eds.), Reconsidering conceptual change, issues in theory and practice (pp. 3–27). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

5.Chi, M. T. H., Feltovich, P. J., & Glaser, R. (1981). Categorization and representation of physics problems by experts and novices. Cognitive Science, 5, 121–152.

6.Chi, M. T. H., Slotta, J. D., & de Leeuw, N. (1994). From things to processes: A theory of conceptual change for learning science concepts. Learning and instruction, 4, 27–43.

7.Connally, P. (1989). Writing and the ecology of learning. In P. Connally & T. Vilardi (Eds.), Writing to learn mathematics and science. New York: Teachers College Press.

8.Countryman, J. (1992). Writing to learn mathematics: Strategies that work. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

9.Eger, M. (2006). In A. Shimony (Ed.), Science, understanding, and justice: The philosophical essays of Martin Eger. Chicago, IL, USA: Open court publishing company.

10.Elbow, P. (1973). Writing without teachers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

11.Elby, A. (2001). Helping students learn how to learn. American Journal of Physics: Physics Educational Research Supplement, 69, S64–S454.

12.Ellis, R. A. (2004). University student approaches to learning science through writing. International Journal of Science Education, 26(15), 1835–1853.

13.Feyerabend, P. K. (1962). Explanation, reduction, and empiricism. In H. Feigl & G. Maxwell (Eds.), Scientific explanation, space, and time, Minnesota studies in the philosophv of science (Vol. 3, pp. 28–97). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

14.Fulwiler, T. (1987). The journal book. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

15.Gadamer, H.-G. (1975/1960). Truth and method (translated by G. Barden and J. Cumming, from the 2nd [1965] edition). New York, NY, USA: Crossroads.

16.Hammer, D. (1989). Two approaches to learning physics. The Physics Teacher, 27(9), 664–670.

17.Hammer, D. (1994). Epistemological beliefs in introductory physics. Cognition and Instruction, 12(2), 151–183.

18.Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other essays (translated by W. Lovitt) (pp. 277–282). New York, NY, USA: Harper and Row.

19.Hewitt, P. (1995). Lessons from lily on the introductory course. Physics Today. 85–87.

20.Holiday, W. G., Yore, L. D., & Alverman, D. E. (1994). The reading-science learning-writing connection: Breakthrough barriers and promises. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(9), 877–893.

21.Huffman, D., & Heller, P. (1995). What does the force concept inventory really measure? The Physics Teacher, 33(3), 138–143.

22.Kalman, C, (2001). Teaching students to solve quantitative problems in science courses by writing their way into the solution. The Successful Professor sample issue, 3–4.

23.Kalman, C. S. (2006). Successful science and engineering teaching in colleges and universities San Francisco. CA, USA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley Inc.

24.Kalman, C. S. (2008). Successful science and engineering teaching: Theoretical and learning perspectives. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.

25.Kalman, C. S., Morris, S., Cottin, C., & Gordon, R. (1999). Promoting conceptual change using collaborative groups in quantitative gateway courses. American Journal of Physics: Physics Educational Research Supplement, 67, S45–S51.

26.Kalman, C. S., Aulls, M. W., Rohar, S., & Godley, J. (2008). (March/April) Student’s perceptions of reflective writing as a tool for exploring an introductory textbook. Journal of College Science Teaching, 37, 74–81.

27.Kuhn, Thomas. S. (1982). Commensurability, comparability, communicability. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, 2, 669–688.

28.Kuhn, & Thomas, S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

29.Martin, N. (1992). Language across the curriculum: Here it began and what it promises. In A. Herrington & C. Moran (Eds.), Writing, teaching, and learning in the disciplines (pp. 6–21). New York, NY, USA: Modern Language Association.

30.Mayer, J., & Hillman, S. (1996). Assessing students’ thinking through writing. The Mathematics Teacher, 89, 428–432.

31.McDermott, M. A., & Hand, B. (2010). A secondary reanalysis of student perceptions of non-traditionalwriting tasks over a ten year period. Journal of Research In Science Teaching, 47, 518–539.

32.Merriam, S. B. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

33.Moschkovich, J. N., & Brenner, M. E. (2000). Integrating a naturalistic paradigm into research on mathematics and science cognition and learning. In A. E. Kelley & R. A. Lesh (Eds.), Handbook of research design in mathematics and science education (Chapter 17) (pp. 457–486). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

34.Pugalee, D. K. (1997). Connecting writing to the mathematics curriculum. The Mathematics Teacher, 90, 308–310.

35.Rivard, L. P. (1994). A review of writing to learn in science: Implications for practice and research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 969–983.

36.Slotta, J. D., & Chi, M. T. H. (1999). Overcoming robust misconceptions through ontological training. In Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada.

37.Stake, R. E. (1998). Case studies. In N. K. Denison & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research in education. New York: Prentice Hall.

38.Suchting, W. A. (1995). Much Ado about nothing: Science and hermeneutics. Science & Education, 4(2), 161–171.

39.Wallace, C. S., Hand, P., & Prain, V. (2004). Writing and learning in the science classroom. Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

40.Wittgenstein, L. (1973). Philosophical investigations (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall.
All items in Spectrum are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved. The use of items is governed by Spectrum's terms of access.

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per month over past year

Back to top Back to top