Andrea A. Disessa

Andrea A. Disessa
University of California, Berkeley | UCB · Graduate School of Education

PhD

About

120
Publications
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13,799
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Introduction
Skills and Expertise
Additional affiliations
September 1985 - present
University of California, Berkeley

Publications

Publications (120)
Chapter
Full-text available
Theory building in the learning sciences is still in a relatively primitive state. We do not yet have a good, articulated grasp of how to build, test, and improve theories, what forms of theories are best adapted to learning and teaching, or how to use them optimally in practice. Here, we capitalize on several decades of work building theory within...
Preprint
The paper gives a concise history of conceptual change research, over the last four decades. It does so by tracking both important threads of continuity, but also faultiness of change, and also of disagreements in the field.
Article
Full-text available
The recognized importance of computational thinking has helped to propel the rapid development of related educational efforts and programs over the past decade. Given the multi-faceted nature of computational thinking, which goes beyond programming and computer science, however, approaches and practices for developing students’ computational thinki...
Article
Full-text available
Computational thinking is widely recognized as important, not only to those interested in computer science and mathematics but also to every student in the twenty-first century. However, the concept of computational thinking is arguably complex; the term itself can easily lead to direct connection with “computing” or “computer” in a restricted sens...
Article
Full-text available
Design and design thinking are vital to creativity and innovation, and have become increasingly important in the current movement of developing and implementing integrated STEM education. In this editorial, we build on existing research on design and design thinking, and discuss how students’ learning and design thinking can be developed through de...
Chapter
Full-text available
Knowledge in Pieces (KiP) is an epistemological perspective that has had significant success in explaining learning phenomena in science education, notably the phenomenon of students’ prior conceptions and their roles in emerging competence. KiP is much less used in mathematics. However, I conjecture that the reasons for relative disuse mostly conc...
Article
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The rapidly evolving and global field of STEM education has placed ever-increasing calls for interdisciplinary research and the development of new and deeper scholarship in and for STEM education. In this editorial, we focus on the topic of thinking, first with a brief overview of related studies and conceptions in the past. We then problematize a...
Article
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This article develops some ideas concerning the “big picture” of how using computers might fundamentally change learning, with an emphasis on mathematics (and, more generally, STEM education). I develop the big-picture model of computation as a new literacy in some detail and with concrete examples of sixth grade students learning the mathematics o...
Conference Paper
What could it mean to have a project with goals that take decades or even a century to realize? In this talk, I reflect on my own intention to work toward a genuinely new and deep literacy-computational literacy--which I would place in eventual impact about halfway between algebra/calculus (as a literacy) and the root prototype, mass literacy cente...
Article
Full-text available
This article examines a remarkable learning event where a high school class developed, on its own, a stable, normative view of thermal equilibration. The event is also notable because the intuitive ideas that students bootstrapped into their model of equilibration have been thoroughly documented in prior research. Therefore, the process of changing...
Chapter
I present “five powerful ideas” concerning the very best ways to enhance education via technology. These are “big” ideas that have guided decades of my own work. They have been reinforced and adjusted with experience. However, these ideas are subtle and in some ways cut against the grain of popular trends in thinking about technology and education....
Book
Full-text available
This book examines the kinds of transitions that have been studied in mathematics education research. It defines transition as a process of change, and describes learning in an educational context as a transition process. The book focuses on research in the area of mathematics education, and starts out with a literature review, describing the epist...
Chapter
Full-text available
There is more to seeing than meets the eyeball. N. R. Hanson (1958) Much work on expertise and its development builds upon the suggestive metaphor that expertise is a kind of "seeing," and developing expertise is a matter of honing or improving this seeing. Stevens and Hall (1998) introduced the term disciplined perception to capture the ability of...
Research
Full-text available
This article examines a remarkable learning event where a high school class developed, on their own, a stable, normative view of thermal equilibration. The event is also notable because the intuitive ideas that students bootstrapped into their model of equilibration have been thoroughly documented in prior research. Therefore, the process of changi...
Chapter
Full-text available
Knowledge Analysis (KA) and Interaction Analysis (IA) are two approaches within the learning sciences that trace their primary lineage to opposite sides of the cognitive-situative divide. Despite the incompatibility implied by this history, KA and IA share a focus on reconceiving competence not as a static trait but as a contextual performance sens...
Article
Conceptual change research is difficult to review. Problems (what changes; why is change difficult; how does it happen?) have led only slowly to solutions, and solutions have been tentative and partial. In addition, the involvement of multiple disciplines has produced a plethora of orientations and theories. There are, in fact, no widely accepted,...
Chapter
Setting the SceneThe discovery of students’ alternative conceptions constitutes one of the major landmarks of science education. No longer is it sufficient to study only “effective methods,” or general learning processes. Instead, the field came to understand that students had particular and resilient ideas about various scientific domains, which s...
Article
Full-text available
This symposium springs from an ongoing effort to bring together contrasting methodological perspectives for the study of human knowing and learning. Specifically, we build bridges between two significant process-oriented approaches: Interaction Analysis (IA) and Knowledge Analysis (KA), to study how individual cognitive dynamics interacts with comp...
Article
This work uses microgenetic study of classroom learning to illuminate (1) the role of pre-instructional student knowledge in the construction of normative scientific knowledge, and (2) the learning mechanisms that drive change. Three enactments of an instructional sequence designed to lead to a scientific understanding of thermal equilibration are...
Article
Full-text available
This paper introduces and exemplifies a qualitative method for studying learning, microgenetic learning analysis (MLA), which is aimed jointly at developing theory and at establishing useful empirical results. Among modern methodologies, the focus on theory is somewhat distinctive. We use two strategies to describe MLA. First, we develop a framewor...
Data
Paper: http://edrl.berkeley.edu/pubs/Abrahamson-symp_ICLS2006.pdf Slides: http://edrl.berkeley.edu/pubs/ICLS06_Situation_Overview.ppt Video: http://edrl.berkeley.edu/pubs/Abrahamson-ICLS06-symp.mov
Article
Reflects the depth and breadth of the issues surrounding technology in education. Rejecting the simplistic notion that the computer is merely a tool for more efficient instruction, the author shows how computers can be the basis for a new literacy that will change how people think and learn. The author discusses the learning theory that explains wh...
Article
This article aims to account for students' assessments of the plausibility and applicability of analogical explanations, and individual differences in these assessments, by analyzing properties of students' underlying knowledge systems. We developed a model of explanation and change in explanation focusing on knowledge elements that provide a sense...
Article
Student engagement in classroom activities is usually described as a function of factors such as human needs, affect, intention, motivation, interests, identity, and others. We take a different approach and develop a framework that models classroom engagement as a function of students’ conceptual competence in the specific content (e.g., the mathem...
Article
Full-text available
What makes an instructional sequence in physics meaningful to students? Why do some explanations seem more plausible than others? Why is it that an explanation can appear plausible to one student but not to another? We present a model that addresses these questions. Elaborating diSessa's (1993) concept of p-prims, we develop a model of explanatory...
Article
This paper sketches a careful analysis of an exceptional classroom event where students develop, without explicit instruction, a model equivalent to Newton's thermal law as a composition of intuitive knowledge elements. Lessons about how social (cultural, discursive, situated, etc.) and cognitive perspectives may interact are put forward.
Article
Full-text available
This article provides an empirical analysis of a single classroom episode in which students reveal difficulties with the concept of proper time in special relativity but slowly make progress in improving their understanding. The theoretical framework used is “coordination class theory,” which is an evolving model of concepts and conceptual change....
Chapter
Humans have a lot of interchange with the physical world. They lift heavy and light containers; push or roll objects across slippery or rough surfaces; move, twist, and spin themselves; bump into walls; toss and catch balls. In addition to "interchange," just plain folk manifest a certain degree of competence at all this. Most of us run into walls...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This symposium addresses methodological issues in studying children's knowledge and learning processes. The class of methods discussed here looks at processes of learning in fine-grained detail, through which a theoretical framework evolves rather than is merely applied. This class of methodological orientations to studying learning processes diver...
Article
Clinical interviewing is viewed here as a social interactional pattern in order to examine the nature and limits of the technique as a means of scientific data acquisition. I defend the technique against criticisms that it is ecologically suspect and prone to systematic biases, mainly due to influence of the interviewer on the interviewee or to unn...
Article
Full-text available
This article reviews Giyoo Hatano's ground-breaking theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions to conceptual change research. In particular, his discovery of 'vitalism' as part of children's legitimate and distinctive biology at early ages stands as a landmark. In addition, his work reinterpreted childhood 'personification,' changing...
Article
Full-text available
Four papers by learning scientists engaged either in design research or cognitive-developmental studies consider concreteness, context, content, pedagogy, and situativity and their implications for design that fosters opportunities for students to learn subject matter through experiencing authentic scientific/mathematical inquiry. The authors furni...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This symposium aims to expose some of the social dynamics of theory development in the learning sciences by examining one particular case. It examines how individual studies contribute to theory development by using and extending an original theory of conceptual development, coordination class theory. We show how the diversity of contexts in which...
Article
This article aims to contribute to the literature on conceptual change by engaging in direct theoretical and empirical comparison of contrasting views. We take up the question of whether naïve physical ideas are coherent or fragmented, building specifically on recent work supporting claims of coherence with respect to the concept of force by Ioanni...
Article
During the school year 1977/78 four computers equipped with LOGO and Turtle Graphics were installed in an elementary school in Brookline, Mass. All sixth grade students in the school had between 20 and 40 hours of hands-on experience with the computers. The work of 16 students was documented in detail.
Article
During the school year 1977/78 four computers equipped with LOGO and Turtle Graphics were installed in an elementary school in Brookline, Mass. All sixth grade students in the school had between 20 and 40 hours of hands-on experience with the computers. The work of 16 students was documented in detail.
Article
Full-text available
The computational metaphor which proposes the comparison of processes of mind to realizable or imaginable computer activities suggests a number of educational concerns. This paper discusses some of those concerns including procedural modes of knowledge representation and control knowledge ??owing what to do. I develop a collection of heuristics for...
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines the idea that particular representations differentially support and enhance different cognitive processes, in particular different types of reasoning. Five case studies were conducted consisting of detailed observations of pairs of middle-school students interacting with a computer-based learning environment. The software enviro...
Article
The premise of this article is that the study of representation is valuable and important for mathematics and science students. Learning about representation should go beyond learning specific, sanctioned representations emphasized in standard curricula (graphs, tables, etc.) to include principles and design strategies that apply to any scientific...
Article
The Boxer Project conducted the research that led to the synthetic review "Issues in Component Computing." This brief essay provides a platform from which to develop our general perspective on educational computing and how it relates to components. The two most important lines of our thinking are (1) the goal to open technology's creative possibili...
Article
Full-text available
The motivation for this article is our belief that theory is critically important but currently underplayed in design research studies. We seek to characterize and illustrate a genre of theorizing that seems to us strongly synergistic with design-based research. We begin by drawing contrasts with kinds of theory that are relevant but, we contend, b...
Article
Full-text available
The argument examined in this paper is that music – when approached through making and responding to coherent musical structures,facilitated by multiple, intuitively accessible representations – can become a learning context in which basic mathematical ideas can be elicited and perceived as relevant and important. Students' inquiry into the bases f...
Article
Full-text available
This paper provides a review of the rhetoric behind the component movement in educational software, and a critical analysis and synthesis of issues underlying the movement. We draw on case studies of several significant recent component projects in order to assess claims and to uncover and examine issues that are less often considered. While our em...
Article
Full-text available
In this article, the authors first indicate the range of purposes and the variety of settings in which design experiments have been conducted and then delineate five crosscutting features that collectively differentiate design experiments from other methodologies. Design experiments have both a pragmatic bent—“engineering” particular forms of learn...
Article
Full-text available
This paper motivates the idea of"conceptual ecology" by critiquing the current mainstream of conceptual change research. Most research on conceptual change sulTers from too little theoretical accountability concerning the nature of the mental entities involved and too little use of the details of process data to support its theoretical view. Part o...
Chapter
In prior work we1 observed that, while designing representations, students employed an iterative process of innovating, critiquing, selecting, refining, and combining representations. Prior work also cataloged a rich set of ideas for representational innovation. This chapter focuses on the ability to judge and critique the quality of representation...
Article
This paper presents an introduction to Project MaRC. The goal of Project MaRC is to study, in very broad terms, what students know about scientific representations and what is possible for them to learn. We use the term meta-representational competence (MRC) to describe the full range of capabilities that students (and others) have concerning the c...
Article
Starting with the focal question, “what should students know about technology?” we describe and illustrate a way of designing educational technology that is strongly informed by empirical studies of how students actually understand and use a technology. We also have theoretical aspirations in developing what we hope to be general principles that ca...
Article
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An abstract is not available.
Article
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This paper has two aims. First, it reviews literature about conceptual change and about the study of concepts more broadly. The principal claim is that much prior work has suffered from inexplicitness and imprecision in terms of what constitutes a concept. Second, we introduce a theory of one particular type of concept. A coordination class is a sy...
Article
Full-text available
Open toolsets are a new genre of software that involves a greater number of smaller units than conventional educational "applications. " The units are intended to be highly modifiable, extendable, and combinable with each other. Primarily with examples created in the computational medium, Boxer, I illustrate open toolsets. I suggest how they can be...
Chapter
Exploratory learning names a family of approaches to education that share principles like the following: • Learners can take substantial control of their own learning. We should cultivate them as responsible intellectual agents. • Knowledge is rich and multidimensional. There is no need to follow narrow, prescribed paths to enlightenment. • In a...
Chapter
This chapter reviews the development and deployment of two editions of a course on the mathematics of motion. The course was based on the premise that everyone involved—students, teachers and researchers—should develop a flexible competence with a general, programmable computational medium, Boxer. We illustrate the many ways that Boxer was used in...
Chapter
This is a brief tutorial on epistemology and its relevance to systems design. First, I will sketch what epistemology is and how it relates to the task of designing systems. Then I caricature six contrasting epistemological positions, both professional and “common sense” based, to show how differences of epistemological orientation may critically af...
Book
Computers are playing a fundamental role in enhancing exploratory learning techniques in education. This volume in the NATO Special Programme on Advanced Educational Technology covers the state of the art in the design and use of computer systems for exploratory learning. Contributed chapters treat principles, theory, practice, and examples of some...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Soloway and Guzdial advance the position that teaching high level languages (Pascal, LISP, Scheme, C, etc.) to non-majors is ineffective, getting in the way of the real objective - learning to manipulate computational media. Clancy and Linn believe, quite to the contrary, that teaching LISP, embedded in the context of good case studies, is both lea...
Article
Full-text available
This article uses a critical evaluation of research on student misconceptions in science and mathematics to articulate a constructivist view of learning in which student conceptions play productive roles in the acquisition of expertise. We acknowledge and build on the empirical results of misconceptions research but question accompanying views of t...
Article
We investigate two related issues. In what ways can we support student inquiry in the classroom? How can innovative representational systems support learning? In the first case, we advocate collaborative designas a form of activity particularly suited for supporting student inquiry in physics. Students can easily understand and engage in activities...
Chapter
Images can be powerful devices for communicating and for organizing activities. In this chapter, I examine the status of images of good learning practice, formulate some ways to judge them, and advocate images associated with our Boxer Project’s goals. Along the way, I propose some first steps toward understanding the structure of activities and pr...
Article
Examined a cooperative activity of 8 6th graders in a motion course. The activity took place over 5 days and focused on inventing adequate static representations of motion. The Ss invented, critiqued, improved, applied, and moved fluidly among a diverse collection of representational forms. The Ss developed their understanding of the construction a...
Article
Describes ways in which 8 6th-grade students, using a motion program in a pilot physics class, invented methods for working on difficult problems. The Ss "cheated" by manipulating part of the display that functioned as a working part of the program. In doing so, they found a way to solve problems by solving simpler problems first. This strategy spr...
Article
Presented is an overview of "Boxer," a multipurpose computational user-friendly medium, the focus of this special issue presenting research involving its use. With its roots in LOGO, the design of Boxer is described and an overview of the articles in the issue is given. (MDH)
Article
We have an opportunity for the first time to build a legitimate scientific and engineering base for science education. Computers play a central role in this opportunity, but in order for us to realize these hopes, we must set our sights above the hubub of “getting computers into schools,” and on fundamental issues of how people learn, what and how...
Article
Full-text available
Programming is most often viewed as a way for experts to get computers to perform complex tasks efficiently and reliably. Boxer presents an alternative image—programming as a way for nonexperts to control a reconstructible medium, much like written language, but with dramatically extended interactive capabilities.
Article
The debate about the potential impact of computers on children's learning and development rages. In this article I take up one set of issues in this debate having to do with the role of experience, computational and otherwise, in learning. Are computational learning environments doomed to failure because of their impoverished sensory properties? Do...
Conference Paper
Boxer is an integrated computational environment encompassing a broad range of functionality, from programming to text editing, interactive graphics and data base activity. It is currently in the process of design and implementation at the University of California, Berkeley, and is intended largely for educational computing at all levels, from earl...
Article
Can computers teach about what it means to know and make us better learners?
Article
Full-text available
This paper aims at the principled design of a computational environment; it aims at being as explicit as possible about the space of possibilities and about the assumptions made in choosing from among them in the design process. The point is to develop a more systematic, if not yet scientific, basis for the design of complex but understandable arti...

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Project (1)
Project
I am working on a "textbook" for introductory physics, focusing on high school and freshman college physics. It will be somewhat in the style of my (old) Turtle Geometry text (MIT Press), involving (a) deep penetration of computation into the conceptual heart of the subject matter, and (b) a lot of engaging project work by students. I hope to develop a collaborative of people developing materials and sample student projects, based on the software and text produced.