Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Exploring 3rd-grade students' model-based explanations about plant growth and development

Laura Zangori, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


To develop scientific literacy, elementary students should engage in knowledge-building of core concepts through scientific practice (NRC, 2012). A core scientific practice is modeling where students develop and use models to scientifically reason and build conceptual understanding about discipline-specific concepts. Yet scientific modeling remains under-emphasized in elementary science learning environments and little past research has explored early learners' engagement in domain-specific modeling practices. The purpose of this design-based research study was to identify the ways in which elementary students engage in model-based reasoning. Three learning performances were built to examine and explore how 3rd-grade students' developed and used models to generate model-based explanations about plant processes. First, using design-based research, each learning performance was empirically grounded to examine 3rd-grade students' engagement in epistemic features of model-based explanations about (1) plant structure and function, (2) the plant life cycle, and (3) plant relationships within an ecosystem. Next, the learning performance framework was used as a rubric to measure 3 rd-grade students (n = 73) mechanism-based scientific explanations generated from the models they developed during a long-term curriculum enactment about plant growth and development. Findings from empirical grounding of the learning performance highlight students' conceptual knowledge about plant processes and indicate that 3rd-grade students use this knowledge to reason about how and why plants grow, develop, and survive. Findings from model scoring and qualitative analysis imply that 3rd-grade students require more sophisticated opportunities and continued engagement in model-based reasoning to understand plant structure and function in order to reason about how and why plants grow, develop, and survive.^

Subject Area

Education, Elementary|Education, Sciences

Recommended Citation

Zangori, Laura, "Exploring 3rd-grade students' model-based explanations about plant growth and development" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3689070.