The use of dialogic electronic journal writing to develop students' understanding of chemical bonding
English, Sarah Collard
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The intent of this study is to examine how the implementation of a dialogic electronic journal writing environment continues the development of students' understanding of chemistry, specifically chemical bonding, through written communication between the individual students and their chemistry teacher. This study is framed within a constructivist theoretical context where students' understanding is constructed through written discussions with the educator, the students' interaction with the classroom environment, and his/her interaction with the computer environment. The research design of collective case study was employed to allow multiple perspectives and processes conveyed by the participants to be examined in the context in which they occurred while considering multiple sources of information. Data sources included electronic journal entries, classroom artifacts, and semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method, which involved coding, categorizing, and interpreting for patterns and relationships. Four cases were reported in detail. This study found that the dialogic electronic journal-writing environment was an effective venue in revealing previously undiscovered students' alternative conceptions of chemical bonding. Opportunities to actively confront and reconcile such conceptions were afforded through educator/student dialogic written interaction. The dialogic electronic journal-writing environment was also critical in the identification of gaps in students' conceptual understanding linked to improper sequencing of chemistry content. This study also found that the on-line environment provided the educator the opportunity to scaffold chemical bonding concepts to meet the needs of the students involved in the study. This study concluded that the dialogic electronic journal-writing environment positively contributed to the development of student understanding. These findings may have practical implications for teachers in other areas of science, science curriculum coordinators, teacher educators and researchers.