Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 3 Memo

                Reiser, Berland and Kenyon’s article titled, “Engaging Students in Scientific Practices of Explanation and Argumentation,” first seeks to define explanation and argumentation in the classroom. Explaining can be described as clarifying one’s meaning, identifying a mechanism or justifying an idea. Goals for explanation are labeled as being able to use scientific evidence and models to support or refute an explanatory account of a phenomenon or identifying weaknesses in explanatory accounts either in their own or those of others. Argumentation is then detailed as a process of reasoning that requires a justified claim about the world then identifying the claim’s weaknesses and limitations. Goals for argumentation are outlined as constructing an argument showing how the data support the claim, identifying weaknesses in scientific arguments, appropriate to the content, and discuss while identifying flaws and modify and improve them in response to criticism. Practicing effective explanation and argumentation in the classroom builds scientific knowledge. Next, four classroom examples are recounted for. While each example is unique, each example highlights the importance of a goal related to either explanation or argumentation. The interactions between students are described as meaningful because they are defending predictions, justifying ideas, challenging ideas of others and attributing ideas from others.
                Sampson and Gliem’s article titled, “Argument-Driven Inquiry to Promote the Understanding of Important Concepts and Practices in Biology,” details an instructional model called the Argument-Driven Inquiry or abbreviated ADI. The current ADI involves eight steps; identify a task, a laboratory-based experience, produce a tentative argument, an argumentative session, investigative report, double-blind peer review, revision of the report and finally an explicit and reflective discussion. The article then describes an example lesson using the ADI model. First, in identifying a task you must grasp the students’ attention and gauge what they already know. Next, students should work in groups to come up with an idea of how to solve the problem identified earlier. The teacher are encouraged to ask how is this data reliable, what else needs to be investigated and how will you support your claims. Third, students are to produce a material that explains their reasoning. In this step students should identify arguments and the evidence they will use to support it. Then, students are given a chance to interact with others to observe the ideas of their peers. This allows students to improve upon their own arguments before the next step. Fifth, students are asked to write a lab report that answers the questions what were you trying to do and why, what did you do and why, and what is your argument? A non-traditional lab report focusing on these questions allows students to write and reflect about science, an important part of acquiring knowledge. Next, students are to peer review certain papers selected by the teacher. This step gives students feedback of areas to improve upon and values evidence supported claims. Then students are allowed to revise their individual papers. Finally, a reflective discussion lead by the teacher allows students to explain what they have learned.

                Both articles encourage effective explanation and argumentation to acquire scientific knowledge in the classroom. Effective explanation and argumentation is described as justifying ideas and possessing evidence to support claims. Both articles also include steps in which students are gathering data and then writing about their claims. Increasing how much students are asked to talk about or write about their scientific knowledge implies to students to search for data and reliable evidence; an importance process in inquiry based lesson design. Also, both articles allow students to peer review their ideas in the midst of the lesson. This is important to students so that students are able to revise their ideas and claims so that they may search for new data or evidence.


  1. This is the second blog post I've read that has listed out all of the steps of Sampson's ADI model, and I still am feeling winded after reading them all. Maybe his model does not feel so dragging when done properly in a classroom. This seems to include good teacher scaffolding. We talked about scaffolding in one of our last classes. How much is too much, and how little is too little? If the students are close to the correct answer, but do not cover everything the students need to know, can a teacher step in at the end and say 'okay, since we are out of time, I am going to give you a last few details that you missed?' I do, however, appreciate the amount of freedom these models give students to discuss and investigate questions.

  2. Another point about the non-traditional lab report that I particularly like is that it breaks free of the often overwhelmingly tedious portions of standard lab write-ups, instead cutting right to the heart of learning goals. While I don't think that traditional lab reports ought to be ignored because they will inevitably have to be completed at some point in the students' educational careers, I like how this puts that on hold for now in favor of conceptual understanding and practice in every other aspect of what scientists do. It seems probable to me that this would go a long way toward getting students to buy into the process, although I'm not sure at which point we would need to begin familiarizing students with the full bulk of actual lab reports.

  3. I would argue that students no longer need to do actual lab reports once they are able to showcase their understanding and knowledge of writing a full report on their own. As a science teacher, it would be a goal of mine to begin the year with standard lab reports for multiple units and continue until I am confident that each student in my class understands the process of writing a lab report. I too, love the freedom that these models give students, but freedom cannot be had until structure has been established. When students show that they can efficiently and accurately write a lab report, then I would move forward with giving them more freedom to design and carry out an experiment. I believe that if students have a structured idea of how to complete a lab report, they will use this prior knowledge to help design their own experiments.

  4. I agree that it is important to give students the skills that they will need to be successful in school, even if those don't completely align with your ideal teaching model. If the expectation is that students will learn to write lab reports in freshman bio so that they can be do them in later science classes without much direct instruction and they have never been exposed to a traditional lab report, students may struggle and you will not have prepared them well. I wonder if there is any way to incorporate argumentation and explanation while teaching students to write a more traditional lab report. I think this would make them better prepared for later assignments as well as more thoughtful in later classes where they may only be writing traditionally.


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