Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Argumentation and Explanation

Reiser, Berland, and Kenyon (2012) expand two of the NGSS practices: arguing and explaining. Using examples, they show how engaging students in these two practices causes students to participate in the scientific process. They also demonstrate the value of working with others, both to argue and to explain, in increasing student understanding.
Sampson and Gleim (2009) articulate a model to incorporate genuine inquiry in the science classroom. The give a detailed description of how this process could be implemented with specific rationale as to why each step matters. The inquiry model presented provides opportunities for students to create, analyze and revise an investigation, its outcomes and their conclusions based upon evidence.
A few points I noticed from the readings:
  •  As I read the article on argumentative investigation, all I could think about is how excellent your classroom management would need to be to constantly be doing group work as well as for all of the peer feedback. There would also need to be a strong sense of trust and respect in the class for this to be successful.
  •  I really appreciated the explicit stating of the amount of class time required for each step. This process seems overwhelming, considering time constraints, but it is helpful to be able to see exactly what it will take to incorporate it in the classroom.
  • These argumentation articles are similar to the modeling pieces and their emphasis on both revision and working with others.  
The emphasis on the social side of science is a common theme between these two articles. They both provide rationale and methods for implementing a social component in the classroom. Students will learn from one another and their ideas will grow as they are required to defend their positions and critically consider others’ ideas. They work to replicate the scientific community within a classroom, giving students the opportunity to really do science.

Communication is also an important theme common between these two pieces. Arguing can be difficult, and many people who would consider themselves “science people” are not great communicators. Adding this aspect will help remove some of the artificial divides between different types of academic disciplines. Although it’s important to remember that students will need to be taught how to write, present and critique each other’s work appropriately. None of these things comes completely naturally, and students will come in with vastly different communication skills. 


  1. I agree with a lot of the points you made about the readings. First, I couldn’t agree more that there would need to be a strong sense of trust and respect in the classroom for successful peer interactions. There would need to be not only trust and respect of the students among each other (so that no one will be alienated or put down), but also trust and respect between the teacher and students. The teacher would really have to trust that the students are focusing the discussion on the task at hand and not talking about other off topic things. I also really liked the breakdown about how much time it would take to accomplish certain steps in a classroom. I found that to be helpful, especially since we have been worrying about how certain models can be used effectively in our future classrooms with certain time constraints. You also talked about the importance of communication and how breaking down some barriers between disciplines can be a really good thing. Although you are right students will come in having vastly different communication skills and will need to be taught how to write, present, and critique others work appropriately; I also think it is well worth doing because of the importance of these skills in the scientific community. I think about how scientists get their ideas and research out to the scientific community through writing and publishing their work in journals. Too often we hear about how confusing an article is to read/understand because the scientist was a statistician, or a numbers person. In my opinion, when we read scientific journals and articles, the purpose is to gain some insight into what the researcher is trying to convey to the scientific community. I believe it is crucial for students to learn how to write scientific articles and learn how to communicate effectively to a generalized audience not only because it makes it easier for everyone to understand, but it will also really help them understand the articles they read too.

  2. I think your point about classroom management is an interesting one. I think this type of work does require the teacher to ultimately be in control of the timing and attention in the classroom, but I think you negate the power of student ownership over the process as a major driver in their engagement. If you are teaching the process as Reiser et al prescribe, tasking students with figuring something out together should keep them sufficiently busy with minimal digressions, especially since they know they will need to be able to defend their conclusions to their classmates later in the unit. As for trust and respect, I think that is something the teacher works to foster over time, and may require closer monitoring during the first few units. However, creating a respectful and safe classroom environment is something all teachers should strive for, whether it be through simple conversations about who has the 'floor' or deeper lessons about respecting the thoughts (both correct and incorrect) of other students, so that everyone feels comfortable participating.


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