Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

By Rogers Hall; Naomi Miyake et al. | Go to book overview

Using Argument Representations to Make Thinking Visible for Individuals and Groups

Philip Bell

Cognition and Development Area, Graduate School of Education University of California, Berkeley


Abstract

This paper describes how an argument representation tool called SenseMaker has been used to promote science learning with middle school science students during a debate activity. The argumentation tool is one component of the Knowledge Integration Environment (KIE) Internet-based learning suite for science education. The argument representations make student thinking visible during individual and collaborative activities in the classroom. The paper elaborates on how the cognitive mechanisms and learning goals shaped the design of the SenseMaker software and presents results from several formative classroom trials of the tool. Student arguments vary based on their epistemological beliefs about the nature of science. Students report using the SenseMaker tool to support both individual and collaborative learning during their classroom projects.

Keywords--argument-building, classroom debate, conceptual change instruction, knowledge representation tools, Internet, science education


SenseMaker Rationale

The Web continues to become more ubiquitous in our culture and our schools. Many metaphors have been used to better understand the Web's role in education, including thinking of it as a library or as an on-line textbook. Although these metaphors may be appropriate for subsets of Web resources, the approach taken by this research is to view the Web as a whole as "evidence"-- where students can be actively engaged in interpreting, critiquing, and constructing arguments using these information resources. Over the past three years, the KIE project has taken this approach to build a framework for Internet-based curriculum and custom software tools. The design of KIE has been shaped by cognitive research performed within classroom settings.

How can students best be supported (or scaffolded) when engaging in the construction of arguments using scientific evidence from the Web? What do students learn from engaging in such activities? A number of software development efforts--including CSILE ( Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1991), the Multimedia Forum Kiosk and the SpeakEasy ( Hsi & Hoadley, 1997)--have explored how technology can support group argumentation and knowledge construction. Much has been revealed about how groups can productively collaborate using these tools, however, there is not yet an accepted approach for supporting students with scientific criteria as they engage in this process. This paper briefly describes research on these issues surrounding our design of an argument-building tool called SenseMaker that attempts to combine appropriate scientific criteria and representations into the learning process. The long-term goal of this research is to explore the use of SenseMaker as a knowledge integration tool and to infer design principles for software tools that support argumentation during classroom debate activities.


The SenseMaker Argumentation Tool

SenseMaker is one software component of the Knowledge Integration Environment (KIE). Overall, KIE represents a cohesive set of software tools and a project-based framework for middle and high school science curriculum that is focused around Web resources ( Bell, Davis, & Linn, 1995; Linn, Bell, & Hsi, in press). In KIE, students engage with Web resources as pieces of scientific evidence to be interpreted, explored, and applied to their science projects. KIE seeks to promote a more integrated student understanding of complex science concepts and processes. The KIE framework includes a project- based curriculum structure to scaffold students' science activities along with appropriate software tools used as part of those activities. Custom

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