Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Memo 3

The first article, "Engaging students in Scientific practices of Explanation and Argumentation" broke down their Framework for science in a classroom. They provided a list of practices that should be applied in the classroom. They chose to focus on two of the practices in this article, those being: Constructing explanations and designing solutions and Engaging in argument from evidence. They recognize that explain can mean a clarification, an explanation as to why something occurred, or a justification, however they believe that an explanation is a "causal explanation that identifies the underlying chain of cause and effect." They promote a deeper understanding of the concept at hand. In order for a student to show understanding an explanation requires the use of primary or secondary evidence and models to back up or challenge an account of a scientific phenomena. In addition to this, the student must be able to highlight the shortcomings of the account or theory. The rest of the article discusses in specific the different steps that would be taken to form a succinct explanation.

The second article, "Argument-Driven Inquiry to promote understanding of important concepts and practices in biology" discusses a method in which the students are able to develop an argument that explains or answers a specific research question. They break the process down into many smaller steps to make sure the students are engaged in all aspects of the scientific process. The steps of ADI are as follows: Identify tasks to design an investigation, do a lab-based activity to gather and analyze data, formulate an argument based on the analysis of the data, communicate and justify ideas during argumentation session, write an investigative report, participate in a double blind peer review (students and teacher), revise report, and participate in a reflective discussion. They find that this model is effective because it is able to integrate science with other school subjects and places a large emphasis on reading, writing, and discussion. These aforementioned skills are essential to learning and represent the mediums through which students typically learn.

A common thread between these articles is the idea of explanation and argumentation. Both articles emphasize that it is important for students to formulate explanations for the scientific phenomena that they experience inside and outside the classroom. However, the articles go on to say that an explanation or a theory is not enough. Students must push beyond a simple explanation and use evidence gathered from recorded observations to support or refute their explanations. I find myself asking people all the time, "how do you know that?" or "can you cite your source?" Scientists are required to support their claims and theories with evidence as other scientists attempt to tear apart their theory. Common ideas shared between the two articles include gathering and analyzing data to justify claims, using models to showcase reasoning, and engaging in a revision process. Both articles believe in revising explanations after class discussion because bringing multiple student perspectives to the table allows the whole class to decide which parts of the explanation are strong and which are weak. As many ideas are thrown out there and picked apart by the class, only the best ideas and ones most grounded in evidence will be left standing. Both articles highlight the idea of science as an practice that require knowledge and skill. Reading, writing, and discussion are three skills that are essential to learning and important to learning science. Improving in these modes of communication will only increase learning ability as these skills are used in every subject and in everyday life.


  1. I agree with you that reading, writing, and discussion are important to learning science but I think it is critical to go even further. In my own experience, reading and writing was incorporated into the science class, in the basic sense, through labs, projects, and homework, and even though most of my write-ups were cookie-cutter answers and required little higher-level thinking, it did improve my ability to “speak the language of science.” However, this incorporation of reading and writing is more evident when I went into my first practicum at USN and observed a math class, where they read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime alongside learning basic algebra. Thus, the students were able to learn the algebra and see it at work through the eyes of a 15-year-old boy with autism. While I do believe that this example follows the beliefs of Sampson and Gleim more closely, I think that it goes beyond just incorporating reading and writing in further develop understanding in science to also learning about the personal issues presented in the book.
    While Sampson and Gleim presented an engaging example lesson and the problem presented in this example was not a replica of what was taught in class, it would be additionally beneficial to incorporate others subjects, such as history into the discussion, in a similar way to our History of Science assignment and the example regarding sickle cell that we did in class. As we discussed last week, seeing how all the subjects interact and connect is just as critical as learning, as Reiser states, the importance of understanding the chain of cause and effect.

  2. Elizabeth, I completely agree that incorporating reading and writing into the classroom is not sufficient. It is easy to write a cookie cutter lab report even when you don't really know what you did. The argumentation and explanation described in our readings this week require defense of an idea and critical reading and writing.
    I also love the idea of incorporating other subjects in your class, especially if you can work with teachers of other content areas to bring it about. I think this would be more easily implemented at the middle school level, but it is really interesting, and could make both subjects more meaningful to students.


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