Scaffolding middle school students' problem-solving in Web-enhanced learning environments
Kim, Minchi C.
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The study of technologyÕs role in problem solving has proven both intriguing and elusive. This has been evident in attempts to reconcile the instructional technology fieldÕs learning and design traditions with the varied problem-solving perspectives across disciplines and the corresponding classroom practices of teachers. Differences in learning and teaching contexts, beliefs and understandings of problem-solving processes, and approaches to support students during problem solving contribute to the complexity of study. In particular, despite much emphasis on scientific inquiry stressing both content and process knowledge (National Research Council, 1996, 2000), supporting student-centered problem-solving activities in Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments (TELEs) has proven challenging. The purposes of this qualitative case study were to examine how peers, teachers, and technologies facilitate problem solving in science classes and to identify critical issues and factors associated with problem solving in inquiry-supported TELEs. Data were collected from 19 sixth-grade students and a teacher in two project-oriented, technology-rich classes. Findings indicate that problem-solving patterns and strategies for identifying, exploring, and revising problems varied and that the students benefited from explicit and structured scaffolding to link their prior knowledge, evidence, and multiple perspectives to the problem-context. Chapter 1, written for an instructional technology audience in a journal-ready format, discusses diverse perspectives on technology-enhanced problem solving, identifies issues associated with problem solving in TELEs, and describes implications for research. Chapter 2, written for science educators in a journal-ready format, proposes a pedagogical framework of inquiry tools in science classes that emphasizes the roles of technologies, teachers, and peers. Chapter 3 summarizes methods and findings from three preliminary studies that guided this study. Chapter 4 is a research paper in a journal-ready format that contains detailed methods, findings, discussion, and implications of the study.