Designing Learning Environments to Foster Inquiry as a Situated Practice
Tuesday, September 15, 2020 — 2:45PM - 3:30PM
Current educational approaches to fostering scientific inquiry are limited in two key ways. First, approaches that aim to foster inquiry within existing learning environments isolate students from the broader contexts within which inquiry is situated in the “real-world.” Second, approaches that do engage students with “real-world” problems are restricted by the level of experience of students and/or to specific subject-matter that are relevant to their particular circumstance. Further, these “real-world” approaches, by virtue of being grounded in a specific situation, are difficult to adapt to different circumstances as inquiry is highly contextual. Approaches that work in one context may not work in another. This begs the question: given any particular circumstance, how can we design educational environments that foster the learning of scientific inquiry as a situated practice? Drawing on feminist, STS, and pragmatist scholarship, I approach the above question by proposing the design and use of digital learning environments such as games and simulations for cultivating inquiry as a situated practice. I argue that these environments are suitable for fostering inquiry as they can simulate the entanglements of science and society, enable students to problematize situations and pursue collaborative inquiry, and are adaptable across a wide range of subject-matter. I focus on these digital learning environments from the context of teaching semiconductor physics. In my dissertation I propose the design and evaluation of a socio-scientific simulation that connects economic and political models of society to scientific models of semiconductor devices and ecology. Through this simulation, I aim to afford students the opportunity to explore and investigate the dynamic and complex interrelationships of science and society that draws on and attempts to approximate “real-world” issues.