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Exploring high school biology students' engagement with more and less epistemologically considerate texts



Texts play an integral role in science research and science classrooms yet biology textbooks have traditionally failed to reflect the epistemic elements of the discipline such as justification of claims and visual representations of empirical data. This study investigates high school biology students' reading experiences when engaging more and less epistemologically considerate (EC) texts. Using a think aloud and interview protocol of 24 high school biology students who represent a range of prior achievement in English/language arts and science, this study explores students' perceived comprehension of, interest in, and trust in more and less EC biology texts and their accompanying visual representations. Results indicate that components unique to the EC texts greatly influenced students' reading experiences. Students' higher levels of interest and trust in the validity of the EC texts resulted from epistemic elements that are highly valued in science, namely, the empirical data embedded in charts and graphs. Furthermore, students most frequently cited the texts' epistemic components as helpful to their perceived comprehension. The data suggest that when compared to traditional textbook accounts, more EC texts can serve as levers in high school biology classrooms for improving students' confidence in comprehending texts, for increasing interest in science content, and for better aligning students' justification of trusting a particular source with what is considered a more sophisticated scientific epistemological stance. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 50: 1232–1257, 2013