Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Julie Coiro


There is a call in science education for students to be in the business of “doing science,” rather than “doing the lesson” (Jimenez-Aleixandre et al., 2000). Developing explanatory models is one important strategy for sensemaking in science. Teachers’ knowledge plays a critical role in how classroom interactions are framed and how students perceive and go about their work. If we want students to be the knowers and doers of science, then we need to understand more about the relationship between teachers’ knowledge of strategies like scientific modeling and how classroom interactions can be framed to support students as they develop epistemic foundations in science. A multiple-case study with cross-case analysis was conducted in three fifth grade classrooms. Surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and student work were used to examine how the teachers’ conceptions of scientific modeling related to the epistemic framing of classroom interactions and the development of students’ explanatory models. Data were analyzed in terms of the Epistemologies in Practice (EIP) framework (Berland et al., 2016). Findings show that all three teachers had sophisticated conceptions of the explanatory nature of scientific models and that classroom interactions involving the mechanistic features of models were framed in a way that positioned students to “do science” or make sense of the phenomenon for themselves. For aspects of scientific modeling in which the teachers’ conceptions were more naive, classroom interactions tended to be framed in ways that were more consistent with “doing the lesson” or asking students to arrive at a predetermined “correct” version of the model. Implications for professional learning, curriculum, and policy are discussed.



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