Unpacking Sensemaking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learning science involves an ongoing process in which learners construct and reconstruct self-explanations and evaluate their relative soundness. This work coordinates and aligns complementary methodological and theoretical approaches to learning to both unpack sensemaking and better understand the conditions that facilitate it. I conceptualize people's sense of what constitutes a good explanation as taking place along a multidimensional metric and discuss three dimensions of this metric that are central to the evaluation of explanations of phenomena in the physical world: (1) intuitive knowledge, (2) mechanism, and (3) framing. The study operationalizes each dimension in terms that can be empirically tracked in students’ talk, gestures, and social interactions. The power and function of the multidimensional metric is illustrated through its account of the evolution of self-generated explanations of two seventh-grade girls who attempt to understand why a plastic bottle shrinks when air is pumped out of it. The analysis demonstrates that the framework can explain conviction in an explanation, preference for one explanation over another, and the complex conditions that facilitate this change. Methodological and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-198
Number of pages34
JournalScience Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Unpacking Sensemaking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this