, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 159-172
Date: 05 Sep 2010

Enhancing Students’ Conceptual Understanding by Engaging Science Text with Reflective Writing as a Hermeneutical Circle

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Abstract

Students can have great difficulty reading scientific texts and trying to cope with the professor in the classroom. Part of the reason for students’ difficulties is that for a student taking a science gateway course the language, ontology and epistemology of science are akin to a foreign culture. There is thus an analogy between such a student and an anthropologist spending time among a native group in some remote part of the globe. This brings us naturally to the subject of hermeneutics. It is through language that we attempt to understand an alien culture. The hermeneutical circle involves the interplay between our construct of the unfamiliar with our own outlook that deepens with each pass. It can be argued that for novice students to acquire a full understanding of scientific texts, they also need to pursue a recurrent construction of their comprehension of scientific concepts. In this paper it is shown how an activity, reflective-writing, can enhance students’ understanding of concepts in their textbook by getting students to approach text in the manner of a hermeneutical circle. This is illustrated using studies made at three post-secondary institutions.