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Science Studies and Science Education
Recognizing mechanistic reasoning in student scientific inquiry: A framework for discourse analysis developed from philosophy of science†
Article first published online: 24 JAN 2008
Copyright © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Special Issue: Science Studies and Science Education
Volume 92, Issue 3, pages 499–525, May 2008
How to Cite
Russ, R. S., Scherr, R. E., Hammer, D. and Mikeska, J. (2008), Recognizing mechanistic reasoning in student scientific inquiry: A framework for discourse analysis developed from philosophy of science. Sci. Ed., 92: 499–525. doi: 10.1002/sce.20264
- Issue published online: 4 APR 2008
- Article first published online: 24 JAN 2008
- Manuscript Accepted: 10 DEC 2007
- Manuscript Revised: 9 NOV 2007
- Manuscript Received: 1 MAR 2007
- National Science Foundation. Grant Numbers: ESI-9986846, REC-0440113
Science education reform has long focused on assessing student inquiry, and there has been progress in developing tools specifically with respect to experimentation and argumentation. We suggest the need for attention to another aspect of inquiry, namely mechanistic reasoning. Scientific inquiry focuses largely on understanding causal mechanisms that underlie natural phenomena. We have adapted an account of mechanism from philosophy of science studies in professional science [Machamer, P., Darden, D., & Craver, C. F., (2000). Thinking about mechanisms. Philosophy of Science, 67, 1–25] to develop a framework for discourse analysis that aids in identifying and analyzing students' mechanistic reasoning. We analyze a discussion among first-grade students about falling objects (1) to illustrate the generativity of the framework, (2) to demonstrate that mechanistic reasoning is abundantly present even in these young students, and (3) to show that mechanistic reasoning is episodic in their discourse. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed92:499–525, 2008