Expert-novice interaction in problematizing a complex environmental science issue using web-based information and analysis tools
Schroeder, Carolyn M.
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Solving complex problems is integral to science. Despite the importance of this type of problem solving, little research has been done on how collaborative teams of expert scientists and teams of informed novices solve problems in environmental science and how experiences of this type affect the novices?? understandings of the nature of science (NOS) and the novices?? teaching. This study addresses these questions: (1) how do collaborative teams of scientists with distributed expertise and teams of informed novices with various levels of distributed expertise solve complex environmental science issues using web-based information and information technology (IT) analysis tools? and, (2) how does working in a collaborative scientific team improve informed novices?? understandings of the nature of authentic scientific inquiry and impact their classroom inquiry products? This study was conducted during Cohort II of the Information Technology in Science project within the Sustainable Coastal Margins scientific group. Over two summers, four environmental scientists from various disciplines led ten science teacher and graduate student participants in learning how each discipline approaches and solves environmental problems. Participants were also instructed about NOS by science educators and designed an inquiry project for use in their classroom. After performing a pilot study of the project, they revised it during the second summer and the entire experience culminated with diverse teams problematizing and solving environmental issues. Data were analyzed using statistical and qualitative techniques. Analysis included evaluation of participants?? responses to a NOS pre- and posttest, their inquiry projects, interviews, and final projects. Results indicate that scientists with distributed expertise approach solving environmental problems differently depending on their backgrounds, but that informed novice and expert teams used similar problem-solving processes and had similar difficulties. As a result of the project, I developed a model of distributed group problem solving for environmental science. Participants?? understandings of NOS improved and matured after instruction and experience working with scientists. The level of most instructional products was ??guided inquiry.?? The implications are that working with scientists along with direct NOS instruction is beneficial for teachers and science graduate students for their understanding of scientific problem solving, but that much more work needs to be done to achieve authentic inquiry in science classrooms at both secondary and post-secondary levels.