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Keywords:

  • interaction analysis;
  • prompting student reflection;
  • socio-cultural theory;
  • Web-based inquiry learning environments

Abstract

This paper reports on a qualitative study of students' engagement with a Web-based inquiry environment aimed at prompting student reflection in processes of scientific inquiry. In order to demonstrate how prompts become structuring resources for students' scientific inquiry, detailed analyses of students' interaction processes are conducted. The students' written responses to the reflection prompts indicated a widespread use of a ‘copy and paste’ strategy. The analyses of student interaction deepen this finding and show that instead of participating in reflection activities, the students make use of these ‘copy and paste’ strategies in order to come up with ‘correct’ answers to the prompts. Further, the analyses indicate that the students' employment of these strategies can be seen as a response to what can be termed the institutional practices of schooling embedded within the design of the prompts. These findings are discussed and explored in accordance with findings from previous studies on prompting students' reflection in Web-based inquiry environments. The study demonstrates the value of a socio-cultural perspective for gaining a deeper understanding of students' engagement with Web-based learning environments. Such a perspective can give valuable insight into how to (re)design prompts, and how prompts can be productive parts of students' learning.