Effects of explicit teaching and scaffolded scientific argumentation activities on students' understandings of the nature of science, content knowledge and its application, and argumentation skill in an 8th grade physical science classroom.
Edge, Jeremy Scott
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The purpose of this research was to study the overall effects of teaching scientific argumentation in conjunction with content knowledge in an 8th grade science classroom. The goals were to determine if students could: a) learn argumentation as a concept, b) learn to argue well at the same time as they learned new content knowledge, and c) improve how they applied that knowledge to situations that required science understandings. The study made use of explicit instruction in argumentation, scaffolds that helped students develop their arguments, and oppositional groupings to aid students in learning to argue and in developing higher level and complete arguments. Students participated in four main argumentative sessions spanning electricity and magnetism content-knowledge-related topics. Three of these arguments were strictly science-based, while the final argument made use of a socially relevant scientific topic. The arguments that students developed were rated quantitatively based on their structure and level of content knowledge included. The arguments were analyzed qualitatively based on argument and reasoning patterns. Students completed an interview that was analyzed for themes regarding student perceptions regarding argument and the learning experiences. The findings from the data indicate that over the course of the unit, students developed greater skill in the construction of their arguments. Students developed more complete products, used more content knowledge in a meritorious manner, and reasoned more effectively. Students progressed in their arguments as a result of explicit teaching of argumentation coupled with scaffolding sheets to help them produce quality arguments. Statistically significant improvements were made in almost every case. The thematic nature of the argument and reasoning patterns showed that students were reasoning more effectively and thinking critically about what they were doing and about the science that supported their efforts to support their claims. The student perception interviews showed that students appreciated the way using argumentation as a learning tool, as well as a specific part of science, helped them to develop a deeper understanding of the content. The participants enjoyed convincing others that they were right while they used information they developed in class and through research to make persuasive arguments.
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