University of Oulu

Kervinen, A., & Aivelo, T. (2023). Secondary school students' responses to epistemic uncertainty during an ecological citizen science inquiry. Science Education, 107, 1352–1379.

Secondary school students’ responses to epistemic uncertainty during an ecological citizen science inquiry

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Author: Kervinen, Anttoni1,2,3; Aivelo, Tuomas2
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education and Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Faculty of Educational Sciences, Viikki Teacher Training School, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-10-31


Uncertainty is endemic to scientific research practices; therefore, it is also an important element in learning about science. Studies have shown that experiences and management of uncertainty regarding the epistemic practices of science can support learning. Whereas the common strategies of supporting students in handling uncertainty rely on the teacher knowing the preferred outcomes and answers, few studies have explored settings in which no one can give the right answers to students. In this study, we explore how Finnish, suburban secondary school students (aged 13–14 years) respond to epistemic uncertainty during an ecological citizen science inquiry, in which the aim is to produce novel scientific knowledge. Drawing from qualitative interaction analysis of video and interview data, we articulate three responses to uncertainty that arise when students try to make optimal choices during the inquiry: they (a) envision alternative narrative scenarios and hypothesis; (b) accept and maintain it as part of their argumentation practices, and (c) flexibly reframe their research activities and goals. The findings indicate that the citizen science setting can allow students to reframe epistemic uncertainty in ways that are typical of scientific practices even without deliberate scaffolding by the teacher. We suggest that incorporating experiences of uncertainty that are shared by students and teachers in pedagogical design can support doing and learning science in different settings.

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Series: Science education
ISSN: 0036-8326
ISSN-E: 1098-237X
ISSN-L: 0036-8326
Volume: 107
Issue: 5
Pages: 1352 - 1379
DOI: 10.1002/sce.21809
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: This study is funded by Academy of Finland (Grant No. 333438), Otto A. Malm Foundation, Emil Aaltonen Foundation, and Kone Foundation.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 333438
Detailed Information: 333438 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2023 The Authors. Science Education published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.