Writing as an Epistemological Tool: Perspectives from Personal, Disciplinary, and Sociocultural Landscapes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Representations have two functions for students learning in science: a cognitive function and a contextual function. There has been a long history of cognitive research into students’ knowledge and ability to externalize their perception of a particular concept and phenomena. From a cognitive pedagogical perspective, different modes (e.g., diagrams, drawings, tables) and genre structures (e.g., argument structure) become useful means to organize information, inscribe mental models, and crystalize meanings from chaotic thoughts. Writing is a powerful learning tool to achieve the goals. By contrast, from a social contextual perspective, constructed representations not only simply transfer the information from individuals but also recreate shared meanings for communication and consensus building as a community through searching for deficiencies in those representations by solving cognitive conflict. Several scholars advocate talk that plays an important role to explain, debate, and negotiate meanings. However, science is not “solely verbal concepts, though they have verbal components. They are semiotic hybrids, simultaneously and essentially verbal, mathematical, visual-graphical, and actional-operational” (Lemke J, Reading science: critical and functional perspectives on discourses of science. Routledge, London, p 87, 1998). A recent study conducted by Chen, Park, and Hand (Cognit Instruct 34(2):100–147, 2016) suggest that the synergetic use of talk and writing creates more powerful and meaningful learning environment for student learning in science than talk only and writing only. However, little empirical evidence exists to show what environment and classroom norms have better potential to create dual functions of representations for students. A paucity of empirical research and theoretical framework exists on explaining how students learn science through the dual functions of representations and how students shift their single function of representations to dual functions if they possess single in the beginning. This book chapter proposes a framework and questions from the perspective of the dual functions of representations that may help future research in student learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameContemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education
ISSN (Print)1878-0482
ISSN (Electronic)1878-0784

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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