Using the Practices of Science in Elementary Schoolyard Inquiry Investigations

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Using the Practices of Science in Elementary Schoolyard Inquiry Investigations

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


The goal of this study was to explore how elementary students engage with and make sense of the practices of science when involved in authentic scientific investigations guided by student-generated questions. Since communication and collaborative work are inherent in the practice of science, the study used students’ in and out-of-class interactions and discourses to understand more about how elementary students engaged in the practices of science (PoS). Whole-class discussion, small-group discussion, and written artifacts were analyzed using qualitative methods to discover the types of discussions students engaged in, the levels of the rigor of the discussions, and the purposes of the different contexts for the enactment of the practices (Kelly, 2014). In order to answer the research questions related to elementary students’ ways of participating in various practices of science (PoS) such as observation, experimentation, argumentation, and collaboration, the researcher used qualitative case study methods. These methods included in-and-out-of-call observations, student artifacts, audio recordings of students’ conversations and discourses during peer-to-peer, whole class, and student-teacher interactions, and informal conversations with students and the teacher. The data were analyzed using constant comparative methods whereby generating themes that captured broad as well as specific nature of ways in which students and teacher interacted with PoS. The analysis of the data showed that peer-to-peer discussion was central to inquiry pedagogy and learning and practicing the PoS for understanding science. The students benefitted from models of PoS to both get familiarized with the PoS and later replicate those in their learning. Similarly, small group interactions seemed to provide more opportunities for students to speak and use the language of science in a non-threatening environment. This environment allowed for students to share their ideas more openly and frequently. This research would contribute in the areas of student engagement in science practices, teacher’s role in promoting PoS in science teaching and learning, curriculum development with a focus on PoS, and linking citizen science with PoS to improve everyday understandings of science. Additionally, this study could add to the understanding of the importance of local problems as authentic local contexts to learn about PoS including the skills of design solutions. The broader impact of this study may be in student involvement in citizen science projects, local environmental justice projects, and school community projects.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2019. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Bhaskar Updahyay, Julie Brown. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 171 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Hedenstrom, Mary Norell. (2019). Using the Practices of Science in Elementary Schoolyard Inquiry Investigations. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.