A Semiotics Discourse Analysis Framework: Understanding Meaning Making in Science Education Contexts
Authors: (Kamini Jaipal-Jamani, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ont., Canada)
Abstract: A Four–Level Semiotics Discourse Analysis framework is proposed to understand meaning making when scientific theories are used as explanatory models in Science Education contexts such as classrooms. This Discourse Analysis framework is derived from a semiotics perspective of scientific knowledge being interpreted as signed information and from functional linguistics approaches as articulated by M.A. K. Halliday and J. Lemke. Halliday‘s and Lemke‘s approaches to Discourse analysis are organized around three generalized semiotic meanings that relate to social action, roles of people, and organization of the text or sign. However, to understand how different signs (referred to as semiotic modalities) are used to construe meanings in Science Discourse, I argue that in addition to Halliday‘s and Lemke‘s three-level typology, a fourth aspect of meaning, the epistemological, is necessary. The epistemological aspect of meaning will refer to the nature of science, including the values involved in constructing scientific theories/knowledge. A historical analysis of the creation of scientific knowledge shows that shared values shape the nature of scientific knowledge. Hence, the epistemological aspect is integral to meaning making in Science Discourse. The application of this Four-Level Semiotics Discourse Analysis framework is illustrated within two physics teachers‘ teaching practices. Analysis of the way these physics teachers signify and communicate scientific knowledge and the nature of science through multiple modalities such as verbal language and visual diagrams is presented. The proposed analytical framework has the potential to guide semiotics research in the Science Education field1 and illuminate meaning making in Science Discourse. It furthers the field of semiotics by considering how signs communicate epistemological aspects of meaning.
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