Sunday, October 4, 2015

Week 7 Readings

Reiser, Berland, & Kenyon: Engaging Students in the Scientific Practices of Explanation and Argumentation

The authors discuss the interplay of explanation construction and argumentation and how these concepts comprise crucial components of interacting with and applying science. In the authors’ definition of explanation, a student will be able to both define the concepts they are studying as well as provide a causal explanation for why and how things happen. Furthermore, in terms of argumentation, students will gain the ability to construct and deconstruct arguments, judge whether or not an argument’s logic is valid, and actively participate in scientific reasoning. When students engage with methods of argumentation and explanation in the classroom, they can work cohesively to create a larger “consensus explanation.”
  • ·             Science as discourse: when students are actively involved in classroom and small group discussion, they are able to identify potential weaknesses with an argument, infer how data can support a hypothesis, and hear about alternative perspectives from teachers and peers.
  • ·             Reasoning over accuracy: when students partake in a classroom culture where it is acceptable to fail, they are free to use evidence-based reasoning to attempt to explain why certain phenomena occur.

Sampson & Gleim: Argument-Driven Inquiry to Promote the Understanding of Important Concepts & Practices

In this article, the authors describe Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) and how it can be implemented in a classroom to promote conceptual scientific learning. ADI involves using student-created designs to investigate a topic, formulating arguments for explaining why they believe a certain phenomenon occurs, and capitalizing on students’ critical thinking skills to evaluate the effectiveness of models and arguments. The authors outline specific steps that a teacher can follow to introduce this methodology in their science classrooms.
  • ·             Science as interdisciplinary: teachers can incorporate reading, writing, critical thinking by requiring their students to engage in peer review, defend an argument, write reports, and reflect on the process as a whole.
  • ·             Teacher involvement: teachers should circulate around the room to ensure that students are engaging with the how and why of their investigations. Leading questions can guide the students to think more critically about their arguments.

Overall, these readings stress the importance of students’ active participation in methods of argumentation and explanation in the sciences. Science, the authors argue, should not be presented as final form, but rather as a dynamic field where students are allowed to interact with, argue for, and investigate their own models and hypotheses. However, both articles seem to agree that this sort of thinking is not natural for students, so students will require feedback and guidance from peers and teachers as they shift their mindsets toward argumentation in the science classroom. While I agree that techniques like ADI have an important role in the classroom, I wonder how we can gradually introduce and scaffold this method of inquiry so that students are not initially overwhelmed by this novel way of thinking.


  1. I agree with respect to the importance of students actively participating in argumentation and explanation. I'm curious how we can engage students to be active participants consistently. The issue of overwhelming students is interesting as well. I had not thought about overwhelming students, but it seems like being gradual would be key.

  2. I think the social interactive-nature of the ADI provides one very good means for gradually introducing this method in a non-overwhelming manner. We have talked a little bit about the culture of the classroom and an open and engaging culture in the classroom (also one that teaches that failure is ok) goes miles for allow this kind of process to make its way into the class. But of course, the challenge is creating this environment in the first place.