Prove it! : testing a teaching strategy to develop argumentation skills

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


Students at Norman County East High School learn science concepts in a typical teacher-centered approach. In moving toward an inquiry-based, student-centered learning environment, it is imperative that students develop skills of critical thinking and argumentation. To accomplish this, students must be able to define a problem, select strategies for solving the problem and defend their choices. This study will attempt to evaluate the amount of improvement of their argumentation skills through the use of a game using the principles of argumentation as stated by Toulmin. Three questions will guide this study: 1. Will activities emphasizing argumentation lead to more sophisticated explanations of curriculum concepts by students? 2. Will students effectively critique each other? 3. Will argumentation assist students in explaining relationships between scientific concepts and what has been observed? The study will take place in a class of grade 9 Physical Science students consisting of 12 girls and 5 boys. Data will be collected using pre and post testing of the concepts of density, buoyancy, heat and thermodynamics. Interviews and formative assessments of students before and after they participate in the studies activities and artifacts from the activity will be coded to measure changes in argumentation performance.




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