Reiser et al., 2012 explains the benefits in engaging students in the scientific practices of explanation and argumentation. Explanation is the “process of evaluating ideas to reach the best explanation” in which students use models and evidence to support or question other explanations. Argumentation in science is the process of making a “justified claim about the world” and defending or modifying that claim against weaknesses identified by others. According to the authors, explanation and argumentation are scientific practices (rather than skills) because they involve the “coordination of both knowledge and skill simultaneously”. The Argument Driven Inquiry (ADI) instructional model described by Sampson and Gleim effectively coordinates knowledge and skill by having students independently design experiments, construct and defend arguments, engage in peer review, revise their thinking, and synthesize this process into a piece of scientific writing. This last step is crucial in that it gives students an opportunity to improve writing skills outside of the language arts and also serves to refine and make explicit student thinking and learning.
It is interesting to note that effective engagement in scientific practices of explanation and argumentation seems to hinge on the use of models and experimentation in the classroom. It is also interesting that these practices can work in both deconstructing an argument as well as synthesizing a new argument or model; thus, they are not always about defending individuals’ positions, but rather cooperating with others to build and improve models. Meaningfully engaging in these scientific practices can be scary for students because they rarely encounter these risks in science classes. Therefore, this model can only work within the context of a safe and positive learning environment, and creating this type of environment can become more challenging as class sizes become larger. In addition, the ADI model requires a lot of careful planning and preparation on the part of the teacher in order to make sure that all students can equally participate in this type of learning (for example, English language learners may need more scaffolding as a good command of the English language is necessary for these types of activities). Very little information is provided about the student population in which this model was implemented - I wonder how this model can be modified to fit students with diverse needs.