• modeling-based learning;
  • modeling discourse;
  • elementary school science;
  • computer programming environments


The purpose of this study was to investigate whole classroom discourse during modeling-based learning in science, seeking to describe the discourse's characteristics, its relation to the micro-context in which it took place and to the student-constructed models, and to ascertain when it becomes productive. Additionally, we aimed to describe how whole classroom modeling discourse in science may be better supported by the teacher as well as the role of the modeling tool. In doing so, we analyzed student conversations and student-constructed models from two groups of 11- to 12-year-old students. All students used a computer programming environment, namely Stagecast Creator, as a modeling tool. Findings revealed three distinct discourse types (modeling frames): (a) (initial) phenomenological description, (b) operationalization of the physical system's story, and (c) construction of algorithms. Finally, we discuss what we consider productive modeling discourse, as well as the contributions of the software and the teacher in this respect. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 48: 919–951, 2011