Children working together with class assignments

Project: Transformations of transformations. An interdisciplinary study of pupils' meaning-making through transformations of representations in science classes

The aim of this developmental and research project, taking place in grade 4-6 (10-12 year old students) is to gain a deeper understanding of how students can be supported when moving between their everyday experiences and a scientific understanding of nature phenomena such as ’heat’. In our project we collaborate with teachers to find ways of working in conscious ways to represent the content through various semiotic modes such as verbal language, action, images, and models, including the use of metaphors.

About the project

Project manager
Professor Kristina Danielsson, department of Swedish
Other project members
Dr Ewa Bergh Nestlog, Linnaeus University; Dr Fredrik Jeppsson, Linköping University; Associate Professor Jan Svanlund, Stockholm University
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Linköping University, Stockholm University, participating schools
The Swedish Research Council
January 1 2018-December 31 2021
Swedish Didactics (department of Swedish, Faculty of Arts and Humanities)

More about the project

Meaning-making in science classrooms is highly multimodal: the content is mediated and communicated through a variety of resources, such as acting, written and spoken verbal language, gestures, symbols and models. This means that the content is represented in many ways and it is transformed between representations that are used to highlight different aspects of nature phenomena. Each representation or mode has different potentials for meaning making within the area and in the communicative situation. Therefore, different resources are needed for communication about different aspects of the content. Thus, the students need to alternate between and integrate, for instance, verbal language, chemical formulas, and 2, och 3D-models. Previous research has revealed that classroom discussions about how the content is represented are scarce, especially regarding other modes than verbal language. Therefore there are good reasons to develop classroom practices and a didactic consciousness among teachers, which can enable them to talk about the meaning potential of different representations.

In this project, we are interested in finding ways of supporting students in their transitions between macroscopic (what can be perceived with our senses) and microscopic (that cannot be perceived by our senses) explanations, by a conscious use of representations in different modes (words, images, models, etc.), explaining nature phenomena both at a macroscopic and a microscopic level as well as the link between these.
Data consist of video- and audio recordings of classroom interaction, and students' texts, as well as interviews with teachers and students. The analyses are based on social semiotics where each choice made in a communicative situation is seen as a result of social, cultural, and situational factors (e.g. the participants, and the available resources). A special focus will be on the ways in which different representations – including the use of metaphors – support or challenge meaning-making, both for the one producing and for those using them.