Student sensemaking with science diagrams in a computer-based setting

  • Anniken Furberg
  • Anders Kluge
  • Sten Ludvigsen


This paper reports on a study of students’ conceptual sensemaking with science diagrams within a computer-based learning environment aimed at supporting collaborative learning. Through the microanalysis of students’ interactions in a project about energy and heat transfer, we demonstrate how representations become productive social and cognitive resources in the students’ conceptual sensemaking. Taking a socio-cultural approach, the study aims to contribute on two levels. First, by providing insight into the interactional processes in which students encounter a particular type of representation: science diagrams. Second, the study aims to demonstrate that an important aspect of students’ encounters with science representations concerns making sense of how to respond to institutional norms and social practices embedded within the context of schooling. The findings demonstrate how the science diagrams become productive social and individual resources for the students by slowing down the students’ conceptual sensemaking processes and by opening up a space for the interpretation and negotiation of scientific concepts, as well as of the representations themselves. The study also shows the challenges involved when students move from oral to written accounts in their inquiries.


Conceptual sensemaking Interaction analysis Physics Representations Science diagrams Secondary school Socio-cultural perspective 



This work was financially supported by InterMedia, University of Oslo. We would like to thank our colleagues in the Change Research Group for their constructive feedback on earlier drafts, and Edith Isdal for reconstructing the solar panel diagrams. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and valuable comments. The study was conducted in the context of Science Created by You (SCY), which is funded by the European Community under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) theme of the 7th Framework Programme for R&D (Grant agreement 212814). This document does not represent the opinions of the European Community, and the European Community is not responsible for any use that might be made of its content.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. and Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.InterMediaUniversity of OsloBlindernNorway

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