Narrative and paradigmatic explanations in preschool science discourse

  • Peterson S
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Abstract

This study examines the use of narrative and paradigmatic modes of explanation in large group discussions about science in preschool classrooms. Participants comprised students and teachers in 29 preschool classrooms, 19 of which used the ScienceStart! curriculum, a hands-on, inquiry approach to teaching science with young children. Analyses of videotaped large group activities address two major research questions: (a) Does the use of a structured preschool science curriculum promote the use of paradigmatic explanations around science topics?, and (b) Where the narrative and paradigmatic modes are present, how are students socialized to understand and appropriately use these modes in science discourse? Results indicate that students in the science curriculum classrooms were exposed to a higher frequency of paradigmatic explanations than those in the comparison group. Children in this group also produced a higher relative frequency of paradigmatic explanations. Results of qualitative analysis reveal ways in which teachers socialized children to mix the narrative and paradigmatic modes, linking general principles with experienced events. Discussion of findings suggests that teaching scientific thinking with young children should involve a dialogue between abstract and experiential ways of thinking. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

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Authors

  • Shira May Peterson

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