Reasoning as a scientist: ways of helping children to use language to learn science


Educational Dialogue Research Unit, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK E-mail:


Sociocultural researchers have claimed that students' learning of science is a discursive process, with scientific concepts and ways of reasoning being learned through engagement in practical enquiry and social interaction as well as individualized activity. It is also often claimed that interacting with partners while carrying out scientific investigations is beneficial to students' learning and the development of their understanding. The research we describe investigated the validity of these claims and explored their educational implications. An experimental teaching programme was designed to enable children in British primary schools to talk and reason together and to apply these skills in their study of science. The results obtained indicate that (a) children can be enabled to use talk more effectively as a tool for reasoning and (b) talk-based activities can have a useful function in scaffolding the development of reasoning and scientific understanding. The implications of the findings for educational policy and practice are discussed.