Explanations that make sense: Accounting for students' internal evaluations of explanations

Shulamit Kapon, Orit Parnafes

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper discusses students' internal evaluation of explanations, as opposed to external evaluations of explanations that are based on compatibility with formal scientific explanations. We propose a theoretical construct, metaphorically termed the internal metric for certainty in explanation, to account for the process of internal evaluation. We suggest that the internal metric is multidimensional, and discuss three dimensions: (1) intuition; (2) local coherence; (3) mechanistic reasoning. We argue that these three dimensions are highly active in self-evaluating explanations about phenomena in the physical world. We operationalize these dimensions into empirically traceable terms. We illustrate our framework through an analysis of an episode of a student's reasoning about what causes a plastic bottle to shrink when air is pumped out of it. The analysis demonstrates that the framework can explain conviction in an explanation, as well the preference for one explanation over another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-894
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of International Conference of the Learning Sciences, ICLS
Issue numberJanuary
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Event11th International Conference of the Learning Sciences: Learning and Becoming in Practice, ICLS 2014 - Boulder, United States
Duration: 23 Jun 201427 Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education


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