What were we supposed to learn? Epistemologically-oriented design in introductory biology labs
Julia Svoboda Gouvea, Tufts University, Julia.Gouvea@tufts.edu
In my work at Tufts University, I have been re-designing the introductory biology laboratories to engage students in building and evaluating scientific knowledge. The success of this design effort depends, in large part, on students’ practical epistemologies - how they interpret various aspects of the designed learning environment and how they understand and enact their role within it. For example, do students see themselves as responsible for generating new ideas or repeating back what they were “supposed to have learned”?
In this talk, I use data in the form of video, interviews and written work to illustrate how students’ shifting understandings of knowing and learning in biology lab are linked to various components of the designed learning environment. I will first present examples of how students’ scientific reasoning was supported by individual components of the lab design such as lab reports and in-class activities. I will then explore how students’ interpretations and responses to these components can potentially interact with and influence one another in non-linear ways. For example, moments of doing science may not add up to an understanding of lab as about doing science.
I end by discussing emerging ideas about epistemologically-oriented design as involving design at multiple levels: from the framing of individual components to the alignment components at the course level. I also propose the need for more research investigating the dynamics of students’ practical epistemologies as they play out in interaction with features of designed learning environments.