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Supporting argumentation through students' questions: Case studies in science classrooms
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Chin, C., & Osborne, J. (2010). Supporting argumentation through students' questions: Case studies in science classrooms. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(2), 230-284.
The past 15 years have seen a growing interest in the role of argumentation and its role in learning across diverse fields such as computer-supported collaborative learning, language arts, science and math education. Nevertheless, while there is a mounting body of evidence that engaging in the dialogic interaction associated with argumentation helps to develop both student skills with argument and their conceptual understanding, the scientific challenge of understanding how argumentation produces learning remains. A second challenge is that of developing our understanding of how to trigger productive argumentation among students.
Our hypothesis was that developing the skills of questioning – both those of framing an appropriate question and the cognitive demands required to respond to such a question – offered a potential heuristic to facilitate argumentation of a better quality. The purpose of this study, was to explore whether the use of a pedagogy that supports student questioning would foster argumentation in science. Four classes of students, aged 12-14 years, from two countries participated in the study. The students first wrote questions that they had about a problem on heating ice to steam where they had to decide which of two given graphs showing the change in temperature with time was correct. They then worked in groups (members had different viewpoints) to discuss their answers. To help them structure their arguments, students were given an "Our argument" sheet and an argument diagram. One group of students from each class was audiotaped. Data from both students' written work and taped oral discourse were then analyzed. The analysis dealt with types of questions asked, the content and function of their talk, and the quality of arguments elicited. Students' written questions were of five main types: a) key inquiry question; (b) basic or factual information; (c) unknown or missing information that was not provided in the exercise; (d) conditions under which the phenomenon was carried out; and (e) other information, such as the validity and relevance of the given data. To illustrate the dynamic interaction between students' questions and the evolution of their arguments, the discourse of one group is presented as a case study. Emerging from our analysis is a tentative explanatory model of how students' questions helped to generate and sustain dialogue and assist conceptual learning. We conclude by exploring how this model might not only account for existing research findings but also hold predictive value for future research.
This is the final draft, after peer-review, of a manuscript published in Journal of the Learning Sciences. The published version is available online at:
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