Science consists of a body of knowledge and a set of processes by which the knowledge is produced. Although these have traditionally been treated separately in science instruction, there has been a shift to an integration of knowledge and processes, or set of practices, in how science should be taught and assessed. We explore whether a general overall mastery of the processes drives learning in new science content areas and if this overall mastery can be improved through engaged science learning. Through a review of literature, the paper conceptualizes this general process mastery as scientific sensemaking, defines the sub-dimensions, and presents a new measure of the construct centered in scenarios of general interest to young adolescents. Using a dataset involving over 2500 6th and 8th grade students, the paper shows that scientific sensemaking scores can predict content learning gains and that this relationship is consistent across student characteristics, content of instruction, and classroom environment. Further, students who are behaviorally and cognitively engaged during science classroom activities show greater growth in scientific sensemaking, showing a reciprocal relationship between sensemaking ability and effective science instruction. Findings from this work support early instruction on sensemaking activities to better position students to learn new scientific content.

Recommended Citation:
Cannady, M. A., Vincent-Ruz, P., Chung, J. M., & Schunn, C. D. (2019). Scientific sensemaking supports science content learning across disciplines and instructional contexts. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 59, 101802.

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Year: 2019


  • Science Learning

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