Date of Award

Fall 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi

Second Advisor

Birrens, Jill

Third Advisor

Lopez, Francesca


The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate if wiki collaboration among Latino high school chemistry students can help reduce the science achievement gap between Latino and White students. The study was a quasi-experimental pre/post control group mixed-methods design. It used three intact sections of a high school chemistry course. The first research question asked if there is a difference in academic achievement between a treatment and control group on selected concepts from the topics of bonding, physical changes, and chemical changes, when Latino high school chemistry students collaborate on a quasi-natural wiki project. Overall results for all three activities (Bonding, Physical Changes, and Chemical Changes) indicated no significant difference between the wiki and control group. However, students performing the chemical changes activity did significantly better than their respective control group. Furthermore, there was a significant association, with large effect size, between group membership and ability to overcome the misconception that aqueous ionic reactants in precipitation reactions exist as molecular pairs of ions.

Qualitative analysis of classroom and computer lab dialogue, discussion board communication, student focus groups, teacher interviews, and wiki content attributes the better performance of the chemical changes wiki group to favorable differences in intersubjectivity and calibrated assistance, as well as learning about submicroscopic representations of precipitation reactions in multiple contexts. Furthermore, the nonsignificant result overall points to an aversion to peer editing as a possible cause. Drawing considerably on Vygotsky and Piaget, the results are discussed within the context of how distributed scaffolding facilitated medium levels of cognitive conflict.

The second research question asked what the characteristics of distributed metacognitive scaffolding are when Latino high school chemistry students collaborate on a quasi-natural wiki project. Results suggested a higher frequency of metacognitive scaffolding by the teacher, over peers, for content knowledge and making connections knowledge. Teacher metacognitive scaffolding often took the form of posting discussion board questions designed to stimulate student reflection on their content or creativity. On the other hand, both teacher and peer metacognitive scaffolding for general goals knowledge and strategy knowledge was relatively infrequent. Recommendations are offered for improving teacher and peer metacognitive scaffolding.