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Mapping Sociomaterial Artifacts Across Contexts: Affordances of Science Notebooks for Pedagogical Design in Informal Learning Environments

Sun, April 19, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Sheraton, Floor: Second Level, Arkansas


Project COOL (Chemical Oceanography Outside of the Lab) is a five-year Design Based Research project that brings together undergraduates, chemical oceanographers, and learning scientists, to broaden participation for middle school youth from groups historically underrepresented in the sciences.
We focused on pedagogies for introducing science notebooks to the mentors in their preparatory class and the pedagogical moves they made when using science notebooks with youth in the COOL out-of-school (OST) program. Science notebooks are central to science laboratories (Latour, 1990) and translate effectively to science classrooms (Roberson & Lankford, 2010). Here, we focused on the science notebook as a sociomaterial artifact in the OST space. We sought to investigate the following questions: a) What pedagogical structures guided mentors’ use of science notebooks as tools for their own and youths’ learning? b) What pedagogical moves did the mentors employ when using science notebooks with youth in the OST program?

Theoretical Framework
The cultural learning pathways framework (Bell, Tzou, Bricker & Baines, 2012) explored sociomaterial practices as outcomes of constellations of situated events. We considered the pedagogical moves to prepare mentors as part of these situated events; within the preparatory class, mentors were introduced to the idea of “writing to unlearn” (Kleinsasser, 2000) and then to the uses of science notebooks for sense-making (Klentschy, 2005). They rehearsed strategies for introducing youth to science notebooks and then worked with youth in the OST environment. We charted how mentors’ experiences with science notebooks became a set of intertwined learning outcomes that influenced their sociomaterial practices with youth in the COOL program.


Using the science notebooks to focus our inquiry, we studied mentors as learners in the preparatory class and as educators in the COOL OST program. We conducted grounded theory analysis of a subset of the data (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), with explicit attention to the design of pedagogical structures, mentors’ learning, and subsequent interactions with youth around science notebooks.

Analyses revealed the integral role of science notebooks in COOL, enabling mentors to create multi-modal records of their learning and reflect on their experiences as developing educators. Preliminary findings indicated a continuum of uptake of science notebooks among the mentors, linking between mentors’ varying levels of science notebook use in the preparatory class and their differential facility in introducing them to youth in the OST program. We examined how science notebooks, as boundary objects (Star, 1988), allowed us to specify the various cultural learning pathways within informal learning environments through mentors’ use of scientific and everyday language, their rehearsals of facilitation, and their pedagogical moves in the COOL OST program.

This study speaks to the power of employing intentional pedagogical design for preparing educators to work in informal learning environments. Science notebooks represent just one example of the affordances of developing a shared sociomaterial practice. As boundary objects, they facilitate teaching and learning across contexts and in hybrid spaces. Additionally, when thoughtfully embedded in pedagogical structures, science notebooks serve as mediated tools with the potential to foreground student interests and understanding.


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