The readings this week are great—discussing the development of explanations or physical/scientific phenomena, and how to encourage students to construct these explanations. Reiser, Berland and Kenyon describe a small handful of in-class examples and how ‘meaningful engagement in explanation and argumentation’ construct sound explanations in a class setting. Sampson and Gleim detail a seven-step process called the Argument Driven Inquiry (ADI) Instructional Model. These seven steps guide the instructor along presenting the students with the phenomena, allowing them to construct explanation, and a refinement of the explanation through various means of interaction and critique.
I really enjoyed the readings this week because allowing the learner construct solid conclusions on his/her own has always been a sort of pillar for me whenever I tutor/teach. I would never really follow a rigorous pattern when doing this though. Sometimes I would go ahead and present the learner with what I judged to be enough information to develop the explanation, sometimes I would try to completely remove myself and allow the learner to critique him/herself. But most of the time I would neglect to seek revision or critique more than once—how this looks is when the learner presents the explanation to me, I seek what faults lay between that explanation and the true answer, and try to bridge the gap there in one fell swoop. The Reiser, Berland and Kenyon piece demonstrated how allowing the students to discuss the explanation through multiple levels of critique and revision can guide the group as a whole to the best understanding possible of the problem. Some of the more effective elements of this discussion here involve one of the students acknowledging the perspective of another student and seeking compromise or common ground between differing explanations, and I appreciated how the model presented in that piece allowed for this to occur.
I had always viewed this process as an extremely organic one without much structure or plan on the instructors end—rather, maybe just an intrinsic skill the teacher has (the ability to bring the class to the best possible explanation). The Sampson & Gleim piece’s rigorous process provided much more structure to this organic process. My favorite part of this model is the multi-step revision process, utilizing the other members of the class to review and revise written reports and arguments constructed after an argumentation session. The reports are considered incomplete until they are properly revised.
I see a lot of value in emphasizing this revision. The first reading showed that with just the right amount of intervention on the instructors part, the interactions between students give the group a greater wholesome understand of the issue and can more effective determine the weaknesses in their own explanation (and strength in others’). These also form good interpersonal skills (which I am ALL ABOUT) and expository skills as well—while sometimes underdeveloped in students, a formidable expository skillset enables them to approach an array of scientific challenges with the mindset they need—that of a scientist.