The Rhythms of Scientific Thinking: A Study of Collaboration in an Earthquake Microworld


In this chapter we explore how people build new theories in the context of collaborative scientific thinking. As illustrated by many of the chapters in this volume, our default notion of “scientific thinking” has changed from that of the lone scientist or student toiling away on a magnum opus or in the laboratory, to that of people working as part of collaborative groups who negotiate goals for the task, co-construct knowledge, and benefit from the diverse prior knowledge that each collaborator brings to the table. In some ways, conceptualizing scientific thinking as fundamentally collaborative is not new. There are famous stories of how collaboration has played an important role in many scientific breakthroughs, from the discovery of the structure of DNA (Watson, 1968) to pioneering work in Artificial Intelligence (Simon, 1996). Furthermore, the goal of creating learning environments that support rich collaboration has also been at the heart of many innovations in science education. Yet, psychologists who study scientific thinking from a cognitive perspective have only recently begun asking questions about how scientific understanding occurs within collaborative groups. One research direction has involved demonstrating that group work leads to greater conceptual change than individual activity. For example, Okada and Simon (1997) showed that pairs of undergraduate science majors were more successful than singletons in discovering scientific laws governing a computer microworld, while studies with children and adolescents suggest that working with a peer is more likely to promote mastery of a variety of scientific concepts than working alone (Kuhn & Phelps, 1979; 1982; Teasley, 1995). A second research direction has involved in-depth analyses of the group 3

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@inproceedings{Azmitia2001TheRO, title={The Rhythms of Scientific Thinking: A Study of Collaboration in an Earthquake Microworld}, author={Margarita Azmitia}, year={2001} }