Machine learning (ML) has become commonplace in educational research and science education research, especially to support assessment efforts. Such applications of machine learning have shown their promise in replicating and scaling human-driven codes of students' work. Despite this promise, we and other scholars argue that machine learning has not yet achieved its transformational potential. We argue that this is because our field is currently lacking frameworks for supporting creative, principled, and critical endeavors to use machine learning in science education research. To offer considerations for science education researchers' use of ML, we present a framework, Distributing Epistemic Functions and Tasks (DEFT), that highlights the functions and tasks that pertain to generating knowledge that can be carried out by either trained researchers or machine learning algorithms. Such considerations are critical decisions that should occur alongside those about, for instance, the type of data or algorithm used. We apply this framework to two cases, one that exemplifies the cutting-edge use of machine learning in science education research and another that offers a wholly different means of using machine learning and human-driven inquiry together. We conclude with strategies for researchers to adopt machine learning and call for the field to rethink how we prepare science education researchers in an era of great advances in computational power and access to machine learning methods.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Number of pages25
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 02.08.2022
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    Research areas

  • Domain-specific learning in kindergarten and school - evaluation and theory, science education, validity, reliability

ID: 1844881