Facilitating high school students’ sophisticated argumentation about nature of science (NOS)

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Views of nature of science (VNOS) have been suggested as an important component of scientific literacy by many science educators from different countries. Using the argumentative resources (AR) framework, the researcher focuses on how students enacted their VNOS through their use of AR during argumentations about nature of science (NOS). Accordingly, sophisticated VNOS can be inferred from students’ appropriate/critical construction, justification, and evaluation of NOS claims. However, there have been few studies on how students use AR to argue about NOS, especially within non-Western school culture. Besides, the existing intervention studies tend to adopt fixed procedures, such as pre-post-test and (quasi-) experimental methodology for research design. Few of them have employed the design research methodology that allows for flexible refinement of the intervention and consequently better understanding of the mechanism regarding the changes, if any, in students’ VNOS.<br><br>Given the above gaps, this study aimed to identify “design principles” (Jiménez-Aleixandre, 2007) effective in facilitating high school students’ sophisticated argumentation about NOS. Specifically, the study described and interpreted the data collected from a group of Chinese grade 10 students (N = 4) who were learning chemistry within a learning context involving argumentation, inquiry, and reflection (AIR) over three iterative research cycles. Each cycle lasted for about one month and involved 13 to 16 sessions. Guided by a qualitative paradigm, the researcher employed both case study and design research methodology to investigate how to design and refine intervention to facilitate students’ sophisticated argumentation about NOS. Main data sources included audio-recordings of the target group’s argumentation in the classroom, interview transcripts, and the researcher’s daily reflective journals. Analyses of these data allowed the researcher to identify issues to be addressed, and to propose design principles to be tested in the next research cycle.<br><br>The findings that emerged from the three research cycles indicated that besides the activity structure of AIR as reviewed above, it was necessary to integrate the social, cognitive, and the metacognitive dimension of argumentation to facilitate students’ sophisticated use of argumentative resources at both knowing and metaknowing levels. Specifically, three design principles were found to be effective in facilitating students’ sophisticated argumentation about NOS. Equipping students with seven “ground rules” during their argumentation (i.e., design principle #1) helped to address students’ difficulty in argumentation and motivated students to recognize the necessity of active collaboration during argumentation. Explicit linkages between NOS and content knowledge during inquiry activities (i.e., design principle #2) not only equipped students with examples/resources for their argumentation, but also enabled students to think deeper about NOS during their argumentation. Scaffolding students with metacognitive prompts during the argumentation (i.e., design principle #3) enabled them to (a) achieve attunements in their assumptions regarding the existence of entity and truth, and (b) recognize the limitations and contexts of using argumentative criteria. It was proposed that using these design principles in science classroom could activate three enablers (i.e., epistemological norms, anchors, and dissonance) that may contribute to the changes in students’ enacted VNOS. Further implications for future research and pedagogy were also discussed in this thesis.