SenseMaker Makes Sense

The WISE project I’ve decided to look deeper into, is: What Impacts Global Climate Change? This project is intended for grade 6-8 students and incorporates elaborate lessons. It includes great inquiry questions, videos, electronic manipulatives, multiple choice, short answer questions and detailed diagrams. Once thing I’ve noticed that is missing, is the ability to share and showcase your ideas, arguments and answers. Linn, Clark and Slotta (2003) state that representations enhance students’ understanding of scientific materials. As such, there is a tool created by WISE design teams called SenseMaker. Students use WISE Evidence Pages in these projects to create their arguments. SenseMaker allows teachers to see how student ideas are constructed, allow other students to see arguments of their peers, and make relationships among other scientific material visible to others. In the project, What Impacts Global Climate Change? I would add SenseMaker to make this project include group collaboration to use in my class.

An inquiry question that is posed on this WISE Project states: “How do you think greenhouse gases are involved with global temperature and energy? Make your best scientific guess!” According to Kim and Hannafin (2011), “…to scaffold students’ scientific inquiry, teachers use technologies to access real-world examples to vividly illustrate the nature of science as complex, social, and challenging (p. 409).” This WISE project illustrates just that. By slowly breaking down this project into smaller chunks; this project includes scaffolding to assist the students seek information related to the problem.

What about basics first, structured problem solving and guided generation methods? (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Do teachers need to teach their students certain concepts or methods before they let them research it on their own? Or do they prefer to let students find out their own answer? I believe the WISE project I’ve chosen to examine here doesn’t need a basics first method of teaching. The students have enough information given to delve deeper and find the information out on their own. Would it be more beneficial to the students if they were in groups and had the SenseMaker tool attached to the project? Most definitely.


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development40, 65-80.

Kim, M. C., & Hannafin, M. J. (2011). Scaffolding problem solving in technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs): Bridging research and theory with practice. Computers & Education56(2), 403-417.

Linn, M. C., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. D. (2003). WISE design for knowledge integration. Science education87(4), 517-538.


  1. Thanks for sharing on learner construction and sense making. I feel as educators we strive for the right balance between heavy guidance and pure discovery as described by Nathan. Too much guidance leads to passive learning, whereas too little leads to being overwhelmed.


  2. Hi Sean

    I like the fact that you brought up SenseMaker, especially with collaboration projects.

    I wonder if science classes could team up with the art or digital media classes to come up with a visually pleasing product. Would the art teacher like to do this?

    A good next step might be to explore the different types of end products that the students could produce.


  3. Great post “Do teachers need to teach their students certain concepts or methods before they let them research it on their own? Or do they prefer to let students find out their own answer?” I am learning that it is often the tools that you give and how you teach them to use those tools which will move them towards that autonomy that we all strive for as teachers. I think as teachers we are pre programmed to set out desired goals and pre defined outcomes for our students, when it is the construction of knowledge by the students themselves which will lead them to places we had never anticipated.

    1. This is definitely a way of thinking us teachers need to strive towards, and let students be the driver of their own ship.

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