Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Week 3 Memo

Reiser et al’s article is about Engaging Students in the Scientific Practices of Explanation and Argumentation.  Instead of giving an explanation of a process, explain why the process occurs that way.  Effective classroom scaffolding for these explanations will include prompting students to support claims with evidence and reasoning.  In order for students to be successful in this process, they need to, meaningfully, engage and reflect in scientific inquiry.  The article them provided some examples of classroom discussions where such meaningful inquiry has occurred. 

Sampson and Gleim’s article is about Argument-Driven Inquiry To Promote the Understanding of Important Concepts & Practices in Biology.  The instructional model, Arugment-Driven Inquiry (ADI) integrates inquiry-based laboratory experiences with other school subjects like, reading and writing, in a way that promotes and supports learning.  The steps in ADI include, the identification of a task, a laboratory-based experience, the production of a tentative argument, an argumentation session, a written investigation report, a double-blind peer review, a revision of the report, and an explicit and reflective discussion about the inquiry.  In contrast to Reiser et al, Sampson and Gleim recommend that the teacher provide students with a list of materials that can be used in the investigation along with some hints to get students started in a productive direction.  They say that the first three steps of ADI can be completed in two 50-minute class periods.  Then the interactive argumentation session can be completed using a “round robin” format to promote more individual participation as well as seem less intimidating for some students.  Writing an investigation report, having a double-blind peer review, and then having a revision process is essential in that it helps students understand how to development arguments and support their claims with evidence.  These steps also help foster good writing techniques, which are skills that can be transferred to any subject.

For Reiser et al’s article, I disagree that scientific argumentation occurs only when a claim is in doubt or is contested.  Like in the Galileo or Newton essays, it seems to be beneficial to argue for one’s own claim before anyone has a chance to doubt or contest it.  Although novel for their time, I feel like this is a very common practice now.  I do not get why Reiser et al would frame argumentation this way when just a paragraph later they mention that, “as scientists consider alternative interpretations of the same observations, they argue to identify weaknesses in various explanations.”  To me, this seems as though a step a scientist must take before stating a claim.  This article also mentions after one example that, “the spontaneity of the students’ discourse…suggests that these interactions are meaningful,” and in only one of the examples does a teacher have to guide his students, for which Reiser et al do not really say anything about the significance of this guidance.  This makes me question whether or not a teacher’s guidance could also make interactions meaningful.  In my experience, a teacher could ask one well placed question in order to get his/her students thinking on the right track.  Obviously if the students are “getting it,” no prompting would be needed, but that is not always the case.  However, Sampson and Gleim do claim throughout their ADI process, that the role of the teacher is essential to this process for students because a lot of students will be unfamiliar with scientific argumentation.  They mention that promoting critical reflection becomes easier over time as the students gain more experience and educative feedback to improve their critical reflection skills.  As a future teacher, that is a moment I will really look forward to in my classroom.


  1. Kim, I thought you brought up a good point about the “spontaneity of the student’s discourse,” and that while ideal most oftentimes does not happen. These concepts of modeling are relatively newfound and therefore are not practiced in many schools. Thus, these “ideal” situations are not even relatively realistic. Thus, while hopefully schools while create an environment where students can reach this higher level thinking without prompting, teacher guidance is essential for this teaching instruction to even begin to occur. I would especially like to read articles about how/the best way to educate students about this new method, instead of just highly skilled classroom where modeling is in fully swing and the students already grasp this form of learning.

  2. I agree with your argument against Reiser's belief that scientists reflect and look for problems in their work before they set it out to the community for other to either test out the hypothesis for themselves or critique the study. However, I feel that Reiser frames his method that way because he feels that students in k-12 may not have enough experience to reflect on their own work that well yet. The argumentation framework would give them practice arguing and defending their explanation. As the students move throughout the year they would get better.
    I did not feel like Sampson's model had so many steps before I read your post. Now, I feel that his model may cause students to, maybe not get confused, but think that a unit is prolonged. Having to rewrite reports would make me feel apathetic about a topic. However, I guess it would teach students to write a better argument.

    1. I don't know how I feel about how you feel. If Reiser et al truly believes that students in K-12 may not have enough experience to reflect on their own work in order to defend their theories, why should he expect them to be able to think spontaneously enough to get to a valid reasoning for whatever model they happen to be discussing. After reviewing the dialogues from the different classrooms, it seems like the only intention of them was to prove that discourse with peers aids in discovery or realization of a part of a model. Through this type of discourse, weaknesses in others' explanations were identified. I do wonder if that sequence occurred only because of how peer input was set up for those classrooms. If a teacher required students to prepare findings and give explanations for those findings with evidence to defend them, the students might be "forced" to consider alternatives beforehand.
      I agree that although it might make for a prolonged lab experiment, the benefits to ADI are impressive. I hope that you would never feel apathetic about a scientific topic! But the teacher would have a difficult job of setting up the experiment so that his/her students' interests are always peaked.


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