Poster_USA & Finland - Science Across Virtual Institutes

PDE: Studying and supporting productive
disciplinary engagement across cultures
Complex, realistic, and challenging science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
learning environments increase students’ likelihood of using the skills learned during school
activities in real-world applications. These learning environments can also increase students’
motivation, immersing students in a genuine way in using scientific and engineering practices.
Because they are in school, however, student sometimes see them as primarily school tasks to be
finished quickly. The success of these complex learning environments in promoting better learning
depends on understanding the processes of engaging students deeply in STEM practices. Our
collaborative project brings together researchers from the United States (Washington and Oregon),
Finland, and Australia. These researchers all study systems with similar characteristics, but at
different educational levels, in different STEM fields, and in different cultures.
We have approached the problem of understanding and supporting productive disciplinary
engagement in two ways, described below. One working group is investigating the ways that
students regulate their learning activities in complex STEM learning environments. The other
group has focused on characterizing how PDE is triggered during learning activities, and what
tends to shift students into task-completion modes more typical of school learning. Both groups are
using data from video or audio recordings of students working together on projects or in virtual
laboratories.In both approaches we follow Volet and her colleagues (Volet, Vauras, Khosa, &
Iiskala, 2013) in distinguishing between two orientations of cognitive engagement during
collaborative learning tasks: task co-production and knowledge co-construction. However, each
approach has tailored this distinction towards answering different questions.
Socially-Shared Metacognitive
Production and Construction in
Figured Worlds
The role of metacognition in learning is to monitor and
regulate the learning process towards a goal. Shared
goals are crucial when students are engaged in high-level
collaborative processes in which they do not only share
information but co-construct meaningful knowledge and
understanding (Volet, Summers, & Thurman, 2009). We
examine metacognitive regulation to identify ways
students regulate the flow of disciplinary thinking and
progress towards their shared goal. Because we are
interested in how teams of students collaborate, we pay
special attention to socially shared metacognitive
regulation (SSMR), which refers to the participants’ goaldirected consensual, egalitarian and complementary
monitoring and regulation of joint cognitive processes
(e.g., Iiskala, Vauras, Lehtinen, & Salonen 2011).
Our complex learning environments aim to immerse
students in the world of disciplinary practice (i.e., of
engineering, environmental science, veterinary medicine).
However, these environments are embedded in “School
World”, where students may learn to solve textbook
problems without using discipline-based modes of
thinking and to identify situations where rote learning can
efficiently lead to the desired goal of a good grade. In
contrast, in the worlds of the disciplines, contexts are
complex and success is achieved by integrating
knowledge, thinking strategically and creatively, and
tolerating ambiguity. The goals, values, strategies and
roles in these two social worlds are different, calling for
different strategies to achieve success.
As metacognition is the monitoring and control of
individual cognition, SSMR should play a similar role but
in a way that impacts the shared project activity and the
shared cognitive processes. That is, the function of SSMR
is to facilitate the building of a shared representation of
the project and goals by the collaborative group. Another
function of SSMR could be to execute control processes,
namely to inhibit inappropriate conceptualizations and to
turn attention to others (Iiskala et al. 2011). Metacognitive
regulation activity has previously been found at transition
points between task co-production and knowledge coconstruction (Volet et al., 2013). Both cognitive
engagement and metacognitive regulation can be seen as
integral processes for the group to move into and to retain
at the state of PDE.
Prior studies of group work have contrasted knowledge
co-construction with co-production of a school product or
assignment, considering co-construction to lead to deeper
learning (Khosa & Volet, in press). However, production is
an essential activity of many STEM disciplines. Design
work, research, and engineering all involve production.
Task production in the disciplinary worlds, therefore,
contrasts with production in School World, where it is
often associated with “getting in the assignment” but not
necessarily with understanding. To capture the legitimate,
yet quite different meaning of production in both
environments, we have developed a coding system for
transcript data that tracks whether students are coproducing or co-constructing and in which figured world
they are operating. We are particularly interested in
identifying interaction events that pivot groups into PDE:
the co-production and knowledge co-construction in
disciplinary worlds represented by our learning systems.
USA – University of Washington
• Disciplinary focus: environmental science
• High school students
• Material tools: e.g., topographical maps,
argument organizers
• Entirely project-based, challenge-cycle
Finland – University of Turku
Supporting PDE in Complex,
Demanding STEM Learning
• Face-to-face collaboration
• Student teams take on
professional disciplinary
• Rich interaction data
USA – Oregon State University
• Disciplinary focus: chemical, biological and
environmental engineering
• Senior undergraduate students
• Virtual tools: Virtual Chemical Vapor Deposition
• Student teams develop and refine solutions
through experimentation, analysis, and iteration
Digital, virtual
science, urban IB
• Disciplinary focus: environmental biology,
chemistry, social sciences
• High school students
• Virtual tools: Virtual Marine Scientist, Virtual
Baltic Sea Explorer (in development)
• Combines environmental biology and chemistry
Australia – Murdoch University
Disciplinary focus: veterinary medicine
First year undergraduate students
Material tools: case documents, concept map
Case-based group project in physiology
constructing a concept map of an authentic
clinical case

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