Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Christian Z. Goering

Committee Member

Marcia B. Imbeau

Second Committee Member

Michael J. Wavering

Keywords

Education; Dialogic instruction; Science classrooms; Secondary science; Socratic circles

Abstract

Research has shown that dialogic instruction promotes learning in students. Secondary science has traditionally been taught from an authoritative stance, reinforced in recent years by testing policies requiring coverage. Socratic Circles are a framework for student-led dialogic discourse, which have been successfully used in English language arts and Social studies classrooms. The purpose of this research was to explore the implementation process of Socratic Circles in secondary science classes where they have been perceived to be more difficult. Focusing on two physical science classes and one chemistry class, this study described the nature and characteristics of Socratic Circles, teachers’ dispositions toward dialogic instruction, the nature and characteristics of student discussion, and student motivation. Socratic Circles were found to be a dialogic support that influenced classroom climate, Social skills, content connections, and student participation. Teachers experienced conflict between using traditional test driven scripted teaching, and exploring innovation through dialogic instruction. Students experienced opportunities for peer interaction, participation, and deeper discussions in a framework designed to improve dialogic skills. Students in two of the classrooms showed evidence of motivation for engaging in peer-led discussion, and students in one class did not. The class that did not show evidence of motivation had not been given the same scaffolding as the other two classes.

Two physical science teachers and one chemistry teacher found that Socratic Circles required more scaffolding than was indicated by their peers in other disciplines such as English and Social studies. The teachers felt that student’s general lack of background knowledge for any given topic in physical science or chemistry necessitated the building of a knowledge platform before work on a discussion could begin. All three of the teachers indicated that Socratic Circles were a rewarding activity, beneficial to students, which they would use in the future.

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