Productive discussion in science: Gender equity through electronic discourse

Sherry Hsi, Christopher M. Hoadley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Electronic discussion tools can have several advantages over classroom discussion to support productive learning conversations in science. This paper describes how an electronic collaborative discussion tool called the Multimedia Forum Kiosk (MFK) enabled equitable learning opportunities in scientific discourse: generating explanations, revising ideas of others, and asking questions. Studies compared gender differences in participation between class discussion and MFK discussion, as well as examined three different formats for electronic discussion: anonymous, attributed, and attributed with authority participation. Results indicate that in all discussions, 78% of the students contributed in electronic discussion compared to only 15.3% participation in class discussion. Females participated more than males in electronic discussion, and less than males in classroom discussion. Girls report feeling less stifled when participating in an electronic medium where anonymity is an option. All electronic discussions were characterized by high levels of scientific conceptual content, elaborations, and question-asking. Students generated a repertoire of models for phenomena, asked content-focusing questions, and provided causal explanations using MFK. Implications for future research and design of electronic discussion tools are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-36
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Science Education and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Collaborative learning
  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Gender
  • Science education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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