Measuring student success in the science classroom through inquiry-based discussion formats and student discourse
Haflich, Vanessa Marie
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Scientific communication and discourse have become key components in scientific pedagogy today. Traditional classroom discussion techniques follow a teacher-led format in which students typically respond to short, close-ended questions, resulting in lower-level thinking and decreased student participation. Past research supports the use of inquiry-based, student led discussion formats to promote higher-level thinking and increase student success in the science classroom. Over the course of a two-month period in 2017, one high school earth science class engaged in inquiry-based discussion formats with the goal of determining the impact of this discussion format on student success in the science classroom. Students participated in daily discussions designed to share ideas and analyze major concepts. At the culmination of each unit, students also participated in an argumentation framework to create claims, collect evidence and defend their claims to their peers. During the same time period, the remaining three earth science classes received the same content, delivery, and assessments, but did not participate in the discussion activities. Student success was defined by content comprehension, participation, and scientific communication skills. The treatment group was compared with the control group by analyzing assessments, student journaling, student interviews, teacher field notes, and Likert surveys. Data analysis from these tools revealed a higher performance in student participation and scientific communication skills among the treatment group. Content comprehension was measured through assessments, and did not show a significant difference between the two groups in terms of fact recall. However, students in the treatment group demonstrated a higher conceptual knowledge and performed better on the essay responses of the assessments. These findings could be strengthened by a longer treatment period.