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Cognitive Pathways: Analysis of students' written texts for science understanding

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The purpose of this study was to reconstruct writers' reasoning process as reflected in their written texts. The codes resulting from the text analysis were related to cognitive operations, ranging from simple to more sophisticated ones. The sequence of the cognitive operations as the text unfolded represents the writer's cognitive pathway at the time the text was produced. This type of analysis was used to study the impact that three different types of inquiries had on the reasoning process of low-achieving and high-achieving students when performing their laboratory activity using the Science Writing Heuristic. The researchers found that the reasoning pathways for both low-achieving and high-achieving students were similar for each type of inquiry, characterized as being decision-making, descriptive/speculative, and application. The reasoning pathways for the decision-making and application inquiries appear to be more structured than the pathways for the descriptive/speculative activity. The dependence between students' achievement levels and the type of inquiry in relation to specific use of thinking operations was tested using a chi-square analysis, with the results indicating that the reasoning operations performed by the students are independent of their achievement level and dependent on the inquiry type. Higher-order operations were extensively used in the decision-making inquiry and less used in the application activity. Low-order cognitive operations, such as observations and comparisons, were extensively used in the descriptive/speculative inquiry while being less used in the decision-making inquiry activity.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Montana State University, USA

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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