study

Enacting acts of authentication in a robotics competition: An interpretivist study

Geeta Verma, Anton Puvirajah and Horace Webb

While the science classroom primarily remains a site for knowledge acquisition through teacher directed experiences, other sites exist outside of the classroom that allow for student generation of scientific knowledge. These sites provide opportunities for linguistic and social interactions to play a powerful role in situating students’ science learning experiences. Augmenting students’ formal school science experiences with informal experiences outside of the classroom enables them to intersect their personal knowledge with canonical disciplinary knowledge. This allows for conditions of practice that are more relevant to the students. In this study we introduce the notion of acts of authentication to examine the nature of students’ linguistic and social activities in an informal setting—a regional robotics competition. These acts of authentication are a) participating in talk (including everyday); b) participating in productive disciplinary engagement (by co-constructing and critiquing knowledge); and c) being a member of a community of practice. We used Critical Discourse Analysis to examine students’ and mentor’s dialogic language to gain insights into the nature of their robotics experiences. Our findings indicate that the robotics experience offered rich opportunities for students to engage in acts of authentication. Our study offers conceptual insights into how the culture of the robotics activities both constructs and is constructed by the linguistic and social experiences of the students and their mentors.

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The social construction of competence: Conceptions of science and expertise among proponents of the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet in Finland

Mikko Jauho

The article looks at conceptions of science and expertise among lay proponents of the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet in Finland. The research data consist of comments on a webpage related to a debate on the health dangers of animal fats screened in Finnish national television in autumn 2010. The article shows that contrary to the prevailing image advocated by the national nutritional establishment, which is based on the deficit model of public understanding of science, the low-carbohydrate high-fat proponents are neither ignorant about scientific facts nor anti-science. Rather, they express nuanced viewpoints about the nature of science, the place of individual experience in nutritional recommendations and the reliability of experts. Inspired by discussions on the social construction of ignorance, the article argues that the low-carbohydrate high-fat proponents are engaged in what it calls the social construction of competence when they present their position as grounded in science and stylize themselves as lay experts.

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Putting Environmental Infographics Center Stage: The Role of Visuals at the Elaboration Likelihood Model’s Critical Point of Persuasion

Allison Lazard and Lucy Atkinson

Infographics, which integrate visuals and text, can increase audience engagement with message content. Relying on two experiments, this study demonstrates the role of visuals for decisions to critically evaluate pro-environmental messages. Using the Elaboration Likelihood Model as a theoretical foundation, we demonstrate that individuals engage in greater levels of issue-relevant thinking when shown infographics compared to messages that rely just on text or just on illustration, with learning preferences and visual literacy as moderators. The findings demonstrate that visual content is an important factor for persuasive message processing, and infographic messages hold opportunities for the communication of environmental issues.

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Deliberation of the Scientific Evidence for Breastfeeding: Online Comments as Social Representations

María E. Len-Ríos, Manu Bhandari, Yulia S. Medvedeva

This mixed-methods study examines online comments (The Atlantic online, N = 326; NYTimes.com, N = 596) generated by two widely read articles challenging the scientific basis for U.S. government breastfeeding recommendations. The analysis focuses on commenter evaluations of the scientific evidence for breastfeeding. Results demonstrate that commenters socially represented breastfeeding science as a means for manufacturing convenience and also as a process that is prone to flaws in its production and application. Online commenters discussed their personal experiences (42%) with breastfeeding more than its evidence base (16%). Personal and social experiences were used as filters to judge the merits of scientific arguments.

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