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Repertoires children use in student-student discussions to negotiate about climate change and everyday life

Repertoires children use in student-student discussions to negotiate about climate change and everyday life
Repertoires children use in student-student discussions to negotiate about climate change and everyday life
Background: despite the lack of research focusing on socioscientific discussions in elementary schools some studies indicate that elementary students can, and are willing to, engage in purposeful science-based discussion (e.g. Naylor, Keogh & Downing, 2007), and that providing the opportunity for discussion among students can improve their reasoning and discussion skills without specialised teacher intervention (Kuhn, Shaw & Felton 1997). This study adds to this field of knowledge by exploring how elementary students handle a complex, environmental issue within the context of their everyday lives and in relation to society at large.

Objectives: the overall objective of the study is to explore the nature of students’ talk and their use of general knowledge and personal experiences when they discuss the tension between everyday needs and combatting climate change. The research questions guiding the study are:
• What interpretative repertoires do 9-10 year old students employ when they discuss how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?
• How are these interpretative repertoires used to understand the issue and legitimise, or question their everyday lifestyle?
• What role does science play in the students’ discussions?
• What role does conflict between students play in the discussion?

Methodology: the work draws on Potter & Wetherell’s (1987) framework for discourse psychology, which maintains that individuals use interpretative repertoires to construct their own versions of reality in relation to the social context, in order to legitimise their opinions and action. Repertoires can be seen as the result of a discourse filtered through students’ own experience, interests and attitudes. The student participants (99 from Sweden and 72 from England) came from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. After a 10-minute class introduction about the generation of carbon dioxide and its role in climate change, the students, in small groups of 4-6 people, were then asked to discuss and come to an agreed position about four suggestions that a government might consider for reducing CO2 production (e.g. parents should not be allowed to drive their children by car to school. Not even when it rains). Each discussion was audio-recorded and transcribed, student utterances were categorised as interpretive repertoires, and these repertoires explored to see how they were used to legitimise opinions and negotiate/maintain social patterns.

Overview of the findings: seven distinct repertoires were most frequently used by the students: i) everyday life, ii) science & technology, iii) society, iv) justice, v) environment, vi) self-interest, and vii) health. Health was so entwined with other repertoires that it could be regarded as a ‘superior’ repertoire pervading and outranking all the other repertoires. Science and technological solutions were often used as ‘magic bullets’ to maintain or improve things. The science & technology repertoire was commonly offered as ‘truth’ which cannot be questioned, and students did not think it possible to oppose such arguments. There are claims that more meaningful learning during discussion is likely through conflict than through agreement (Mercer & Littleton, 2007). This study shows that a wide range of repertoires were used when students were in both conflict and agreement. Agreement between the students was as productive as conflict - both approaches bringing in several perspectives on a complex issue.

Conclusions: student-student discussions indicated that 9-10 year olds can use a range of repertoires and work creatively together on decision-making about climate change in relation to lifestyle, but they adopted two very different successful approaches – conflict and agreement. Health repertoires hold sway over others and science repertoires were often viewed as uncontestable.

Byrne, Jenny
135bc0f8-7c8a-42d9-bdae-5934b832c4bf
Grace, Marcus
bb019e62-4134-4f74-9e2c-d235a6f89b97
Ideland, Malin
4c847275-d119-45fc-9cd2-ee12c5e57717
Malmberg, Claes
3f004dee-c4e5-401e-bdd3-9f54067855a7
Byrne, Jenny
135bc0f8-7c8a-42d9-bdae-5934b832c4bf
Grace, Marcus
bb019e62-4134-4f74-9e2c-d235a6f89b97
Ideland, Malin
4c847275-d119-45fc-9cd2-ee12c5e57717
Malmberg, Claes
3f004dee-c4e5-401e-bdd3-9f54067855a7

Byrne, Jenny, Grace, Marcus, Ideland, Malin and Malmberg, Claes (2014) Repertoires children use in student-student discussions to negotiate about climate change and everyday life. NARST 2014 Annual International Conference , Awakening Dialogues: Advancing Science Education Research, Practices and Policies, United States. 29 Mar - 02 Apr 2014.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Abstract

Background: despite the lack of research focusing on socioscientific discussions in elementary schools some studies indicate that elementary students can, and are willing to, engage in purposeful science-based discussion (e.g. Naylor, Keogh & Downing, 2007), and that providing the opportunity for discussion among students can improve their reasoning and discussion skills without specialised teacher intervention (Kuhn, Shaw & Felton 1997). This study adds to this field of knowledge by exploring how elementary students handle a complex, environmental issue within the context of their everyday lives and in relation to society at large.

Objectives: the overall objective of the study is to explore the nature of students’ talk and their use of general knowledge and personal experiences when they discuss the tension between everyday needs and combatting climate change. The research questions guiding the study are:
• What interpretative repertoires do 9-10 year old students employ when they discuss how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?
• How are these interpretative repertoires used to understand the issue and legitimise, or question their everyday lifestyle?
• What role does science play in the students’ discussions?
• What role does conflict between students play in the discussion?

Methodology: the work draws on Potter & Wetherell’s (1987) framework for discourse psychology, which maintains that individuals use interpretative repertoires to construct their own versions of reality in relation to the social context, in order to legitimise their opinions and action. Repertoires can be seen as the result of a discourse filtered through students’ own experience, interests and attitudes. The student participants (99 from Sweden and 72 from England) came from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. After a 10-minute class introduction about the generation of carbon dioxide and its role in climate change, the students, in small groups of 4-6 people, were then asked to discuss and come to an agreed position about four suggestions that a government might consider for reducing CO2 production (e.g. parents should not be allowed to drive their children by car to school. Not even when it rains). Each discussion was audio-recorded and transcribed, student utterances were categorised as interpretive repertoires, and these repertoires explored to see how they were used to legitimise opinions and negotiate/maintain social patterns.

Overview of the findings: seven distinct repertoires were most frequently used by the students: i) everyday life, ii) science & technology, iii) society, iv) justice, v) environment, vi) self-interest, and vii) health. Health was so entwined with other repertoires that it could be regarded as a ‘superior’ repertoire pervading and outranking all the other repertoires. Science and technological solutions were often used as ‘magic bullets’ to maintain or improve things. The science & technology repertoire was commonly offered as ‘truth’ which cannot be questioned, and students did not think it possible to oppose such arguments. There are claims that more meaningful learning during discussion is likely through conflict than through agreement (Mercer & Littleton, 2007). This study shows that a wide range of repertoires were used when students were in both conflict and agreement. Agreement between the students was as productive as conflict - both approaches bringing in several perspectives on a complex issue.

Conclusions: student-student discussions indicated that 9-10 year olds can use a range of repertoires and work creatively together on decision-making about climate change in relation to lifestyle, but they adopted two very different successful approaches – conflict and agreement. Health repertoires hold sway over others and science repertoires were often viewed as uncontestable.

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More information

Published date: March 2014
Venue - Dates: NARST 2014 Annual International Conference , Awakening Dialogues: Advancing Science Education Research, Practices and Policies, United States, 2014-03-29 - 2014-04-02
Organisations: Mathematics, Science & Health Education

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 364248
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/364248
PURE UUID: 5f8f3622-9086-4a17-9132-b94597f36338
ORCID for Jenny Byrne: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6969-5539
ORCID for Marcus Grace: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1949-1765

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 11 Apr 2014 09:11
Last modified: 20 Nov 2019 01:39

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Contributors

Author: Jenny Byrne ORCID iD
Author: Marcus Grace ORCID iD
Author: Malin Ideland
Author: Claes Malmberg

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