Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


William McComas

Committee Member

Stephen Burgin

Second Committee Member

Vicki Collet


Communication, Dialogue, Discourse Analysis, High School Setting, Laboratory Setting, Physical Sceince, Productive Talk, Student Participation


This qualitative grounded theory study applies Discourse Analysis (DA) to focus on the student-to-student (SS) “productive conversation” occurring within groups engaged in several activities in a physical science laboratory with a goal to identify aspects and patterns of such conversation. In this study, Student-to-Student Productive Talk (SSPT) stated in relation to the accepted definitions of classroom productive talk. SSPT is on-topic discussion between students that meet the requirements of productive conversation such as visible thinking and argumentation. The form of analysis applied in this study was derived from Classroom Discourse Analysis by Cazden (2001), Gee (2014a; 2014b), and Rymes (2016).

Conversations showed specific patterns and qualities of SSPT. All previously identified patterns of SS talk were seen including I-R-E, open-chain, and closed-chain but there were interesting ways in which these patterns appeared in the laboratory settings examined. The four labs examined involved students in different ways including 1) building components to analyze, 2) testing chemicals for their identity (by flame and by precipitate), and 3) engaging in a computer simulation. The analysis of the groups’ data showed results of a slightly more dominant pattern of interaction which was the open-chain pattern, which excludes the final evaluative statement as found in the closed-chain and I-R-E patterns. The secondary interaction was closed-chain, but there were minimal triadic (I-R-E) patterns within the student discussions. When considering the type of lab activity and the accompanying demands made on students, the conversation patterns provided clues as to how to encourage SSPT in lab activities. The issues of authority and identity as seen through identity work proved to be an interesting component of the patterns and further research in this regard is suggested.