Analyzing explicit teaching strategies and student discourse for scientific argumentation Public Deposited


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  • Scientific inquiry in K-12 classrooms tends to be procedural, lacking opportunities for students to gain understanding of how scientific knowledge is constructed through reflection, debate, and argument. Limited opportunity to develop scientific argumentation skills prevents students from practicing the scientific thinking needed to understand the nature of scientific knowledge and the role of scientific inquiry. To solve this problem in science education, recent research has focused on how to support student opportunities to learn scientific argumentation in the context of learning science content. The purpose of this investigation was to examine and analyze one science teacher's understanding of scientific argumentation and his teaching strategies for developing students' argumentation skills in the classroom. This investigation also analyzed student discourse in response to those teaching strategies, to see how students demonstrate improved scientific thinking skills while they developed skills in scientific argumentation. One science teacher, Mr. Field, and his students at the middle school level participated in this study for two months. Three interviews employing semi-structured protocols were used to examine Mr. Field's understanding of scientific argumentation. A structured observational protocol enhanced with field notes and audio tape recordings were employed to investigate Mr. Field's teaching strategies that led students to demonstrate scientific thinking skills. Transcriptions of student discourse and two lab reports were also analyzed for the quality of students' scientific thinking skills. Three different tools for argument analysis, Toulmin, Epistemic Operation, and Reasoning Complexity, were used to examine student argumentation in detail. The teacher, Mr. Field, defined scientific inquiry as the combination of developing procedural skills through hands-on activities and reasoning skills through argumentation. Seven different teaching strategies emerged based on sixty hours of classroom observation. Daily Science and the Claim-Evidence Approach were the two main teaching strategies that gave students opportunities to demonstrate the reasoning skills needed to construct scientific knowledge. However, students developed less extended arguments during Daily Science, whose purpose was to provide them with a chance to practice basic skills, such as differentiating independent variables from dependent. On the other hand, students developed more extended arguments during the Claim-Evidence Approach, where the purpose was to provide students with opportunities to develop claims, to find evidence from experiments to support the claims or refute those of others, and to discuss the limitation of the experiments. The less extended argumentation observed during these activities is described as a linear flow, moving from Mr. Field's question to students' answers to Mr. Field's evaluation at the end. The more extended argumentation can be described as a circular flow, moving from Mr. Field's question, to students' answers, to Mr. Field's evaluation with more prompts or questions, to students' responses as justification, to Mr. Field's general explanation based on students' justification, and finally to the teacher's or students' synthesis or applications. The former argumentation is named Fundamental Argumentation and the latter Exploring Argumentation. Fundamental Argumentation occurred more often than the other during this study. Shifting from Fundamental Argumentation to Exploring Argumentation was observed to depend on the teacher's scaffolding, such as using more extended questions and prompts to further the discussion. In addition, the students' abilities to develop scientific argumentation were related to their scientific knowledge, the teacher's engagement in interacting with students, and the opportunities students had to practice scientific argumentation. Limited scientific knowledge is believed to prevent students from demonstrating reasoning skills. Also, "wait time" that students need to retrieve knowledge, described by Mr. Field, is also believed to be one of the barriers to scientific argumentation in some of Mr. Field's classroom interaction. Further investigation of students' abilities to develop scientific argumentation in different contexts, such as group work and whole class discussion, is recommended with the use of the argument analysis tools employed in this study, in order to better understand the nature of learning and teaching scientific argumentation in the classroom.
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