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Wednesday, June 22 • 11:15 - 12:15
CON01.01c - Scaffolding expert habits in novices: A think-aloud study in an introductory social science course

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Every field has its characteristic Ways of Thinking (Middendorf & Pace, 2004). A foundational WoT in Linguistics is applying scientific, empirical reasoning to language phenomena. Our Think-Aloud study investigated novice students' mental representations as they approached the threshold to thinking scientifically about language (Meyer & Land, 2003). We asked students to report their thoughts while analyzing a set of data and drawing conclusions about it. The resulting data revealed novice habits of mind that differ from expert-like thinking:

  • Nearly all students jumped into a solution strategy without taking time to set up a mental representation of the problem. In contrast, experts tends to devote a proportionately greater amount of time to representing a problem and less time to working through the solution process (Wismath, Orr, & MacKay, 2015).

  • Many students had difficulty distinguishing between the tools for observing data and the conclusions that can be drawn from the observations.

  • Some students who reached a technically correct solution made comments that revealed misunderstandings at the conceptual level, a finding that is paralleled in the physical sciences (Cracolice, Deming, & Ehlert, 2008).

We made some changes to our introductory course in response to these findings. Our findings and the discussion will interest instructors of introductory courses in any science or social science discipline.

Learning Outcomes -- Participants will:

  • learn a research method for observing students' thinking;

  • consider how novices' Ways of Thinking differ from experts' in a social science discipline;

  • discuss how introductory courses can support the development of discipline-specific thinking.

avatar for Catherine Anderson

Catherine Anderson

Teaching Professor, McMaster University
Catherine Anderson is a Teaching Professor at McMaster University. She teaches courses in Linguistics, Psycholinguistics and Child Language Acquisition. Her SoTL research investigates blended learning, disciplinary thinking, and the development of leadership skills.

Wednesday June 22, 2016 11:15 - 12:15 EDT
UCC 37