Epistemic Engagement in an Environmental Sciences Watershed Investigation Fostered by Digital Photography

Heather Toomey Zimmerman, Jennifer Weible

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This collective case study investigates the role of digital<br>photography to support high school students’ engagement in<br>science inquiry practices during a three-week environmental<br>sciences unit. The study’s theoretical framework brings together<br>research from digital photography, participation in environmental<br>science practices, and epistemic agency. Data analysed include<br>field notes and video transcripts from two groups of learners (n =<br>19) that focus on how high school students used digital<br>photography during their participation in two distinct<br>environmental monitoring practices: stream mapping and<br>macroinvertebrate identification. Our study resulted in two<br>findings related to the role of digital photography where students<br>developed knowledge as they engaged in environmental<br>monitoring inquiry practices. First, we found that digital<br>photography was integral to the youths’ epistemic agency<br>(defined as their confidence that they could build knowledge<br>related to science in their community) as they engaged in data<br>collection, documenting environmental monitoring procedures,<br>and sharing data in the classroom. Based this finding, an<br>implication of our work is a refined view of the role of digital<br>photography in environmental sciences education where the use<br>of photography enhances epistemic agency in inquiry-based<br>activities. Second, we found that the youths innovated a use of<br>digital photography to foster a recognition that they were capable<br>and competent in scientific procedures during a streamside study.<br>Based on this finding, we offer a theoretical implication that<br>expands the construct of epistemic agency; we posit that<br>epistemic agency includes a subcomponent where the students purposefully formulate an external recognition as producers of scientific knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-918
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2018


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