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Synergy and Students’ Explanations: Exploring the Role of Generic and Content-Specific Scaffolds


In this study, we explored how a teacher used a new mobile application that enables students to collect data inside and outside the classroom, and then use the data to create scientific explanations by using claim-evidence-reasoning framework. Previous technologies designed to support scientific explanations focused on how these programs improve students’ scientific explanations, but these programs ignored how scientific explanation applications can support teacher practices. Thus, to increase our knowledge about using mobile devices in education, this study aims to portray the synergy with an emphasis on a teacher’s practices when using mobile devices in 2 different units (water quality and plants). Synergy can be thought of as various scaffolds (scaffolds in the mobile application and the teacher support) working together to enable students to support creating explanations when using the mobile application. The findings of this study showed that the decrease in the teacher’s support for claims did not affect the quality of the students’ claims. On the other hand, the quality of students’ reasoning was linked with the teacher’s practices. This suggests that when supporting students’ explanations, focusing on components that students find challenging would benefit students’ construction of explanations. To achieve synergy in this process, the collaboration between teacher’s practices, professional development days, and scaffolds designed to support the teacher played a crucial role in aiding students in creating explanations.

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This study is part of the first author’s dissertation. We thank Chris Reimann from Michigan State University CREATE4STEM Institute for all his support in the writing process. This work was supported by NSF [grant number DRL 1020027]. All opinions and conclusions are those of the authors and not of the funding agency.

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Correspondence to Ibrahim Delen.

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Delen, I., Krajcik, J. Synergy and Students’ Explanations: Exploring the Role of Generic and Content-Specific Scaffolds. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 16, 1–21 (2018).

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  • Mobile application
  • Professional development
  • Scaffolds
  • Scientific explanations
  • Synergy
  • Teacher practices