Indian Institute of Technology Bombay,
Uncertainties are part of almost every learning process. It is believed that the production of true knowledge starts from feelings of uncertainty, requiring people to express them openly. Researchers across varied disciplinary domains have argued that learners should encounter uncertainties engendering complexity, doubt or confusion to develop a deep understanding of the disciplinary content and practices. However, in order to leverage uncertainties to aid learning, it is first important to understand how learners engage in the process of managing the uncertainties that they face. This includes aspects like – how uncertainty is expressed and by whom, what factors trigger uncertainties, how learners respond to them and what are its outcomes from the learning perspective. The focus of my research is to dig deeper into these aspects, in the context where learners collaboratively solve an open-ended engineering design problem given to them.
The target population of my work is middle school students and I have conducted two research studies with sixth and seventh grade teams until now. The analysis of the data, primarily collected from the video recordings of the teams, focused on identifying what are the different types of uncertainties that learners experience, the uncertainty management strategies used by them, and what uncertainties have the potential to productively engage learners with disciplinary practices. This preliminary analysis resulted in the process diagram showing the connections among – 1) how and by whom the uncertainty is expressed, 2) management of uncertainty by the teams, and 3) the outcomes of the uncertainty management process. We further investigated how shaping the learner’s ability to ‘notice’ and then experience specific uncertainties can create opportunities for them to develop deep disciplinary understanding. Taking the distributed cognition perspective, we are further designing studies to understand the cognitive processes involved in the task of collaborative uncertainty management. The investigation will involve unpacking the role of the design environment which includes, the team members, mentor/facilitator, materials for building designs, tools for acquiring or sharing information and tools for providing feedback.