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Knowledge Construction in Collaborative Science Writing: Strategic Simplicity, Distributed Complexity, and Explanatory Sophistication

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Chapter Summary

Herbert Simon used the ant's path to introduce one of the themes of his chapter on human thinking: It emerges from the interaction between two elements. One is a limited capacity, short duration, working memory; the other is an environment rich in structured information. This rich structure allows humans to carry out complex activities using relatively simple strategies. This parable raises a question for the psychology of writing. Is the complexity of writing, like the path of the ant, largely a function of information structure in the environment? Or is it a function of sophisticated strategies internal to the writer? This chapter addresses this question in relation to writing as a learning activity, in this instance, the writing of fifth grade students constructing an explanation of episodic acidification. It initially conceptualized in terms of the knowledge transforming model. Four aspects of the students' writing were situated, emergent, or distributed.

Keywords: ant's path; episodic acidification; Herbert Simon; knowledge transforming model; learning activity; sophisticated strategies



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