Of Cannibals, Missionaries, and Converts: Graphing Competencies from Grade 8 to Professional Science Inside (Classrooms) and Outside

Science, Technology, and Human Values 24 (2):179-212 (1999)
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To date, little is known about when and to what degree science students begin to participate in authentic scientific graphing practices. This article presents the results of a series of studies on the production, transformation, and interpretation of graphical representation from Grade 8 to professional scientific practice both in formal testing situations and in the course of field/laboratory work. The results of these studies can be grouped into two major areas. First, there is a discontinuity in the graph-related practices that marks a boundary between people who engage in work that requires them to transform data into graphical representations and people who do not have such experiences. Second, the didactic practices of high school textbooks and university lectures exhibit a marked discontinuity relative to graphing practices in scientific journals. Graphs used in didactic circumstances may be associated with students’ difficulties in interpreting “real data.” It appears that school teachers and university professors do little to put their students on trajectories of increasing participation in authentic scientific graphing practices.



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