Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Impact of Recurrent On-Line Synchronous Scientific Argumentation on Students' Argumentation and Conceptual Change

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Impact of Recurrent On-Line Synchronous Scientific Argumentation on Students' Argumentation and Conceptual Change

Article excerpt

Introduction

The need to educate our students and citizens about how we know and why we believe in the scientific worldview has become increasingly important. It is no longer sufficient to merely deal with what we know (Driver et al., 1996; Millar & Osborne, 1998). Osborne et al. (2004) further pointed out that such a shift requires a new focus on how evidence is used in science for the construction of explanations, that is, on the arguments that form the links between data and the theories that science has constructed. More specifically, the construction of arguments is a core discursive activity of science (Osborne et al., 2004). Scientific discursive practices such as assessing alternatives, weighing evidence, interpreting texts, and evaluating the potential validity of scientific claims are all seen as essential components in constructing scientific arguments, which also are fundamental in the progress of scientific knowledge (Latour, 1987). In short, argumentation is a collective cognitive development process which involves using evidence to support or refute a particular claim, coordinating the claims with evidence to make an argument, forming a judgment of scientific knowledge claims, and identifying reliable and consensual scientific knowledge. Several studies show that educational support of argumentation may foster students' argumentation ability (Jimenez-Aleixandre, & Rodriguez, 2000; Kuhn et al., 1997) and improve scientific knowledge (Zohar & Nemet, 2002).

Most of the argumentation studies were conducted in the classroom for a very short period of time and were not able to improve students' argumentation efficiently. The authors feel that it is necessary to provide students with the opportunity to argue effectively with recurrent opportunities and for a longer period of time in order to improve the quality of their argumentation. Osborne et al. (2004) suggested that developing argumentation in a scientific context is far more difficult than enabling argumentation in a socio-scientific context. Students generally considered physical science to be difficult to learn. Though it is rather difficult to improve argumentation in a science context, we believe it is important to provide students with the recurrent opportunity to learn and use argumentation in the context of physical science.

The constructivist view of learning highlights the significance of the individual learner's prior knowledge in subsequent learning (Driver & Bell, 1986). Cobern (1993) shares the similar idea of learning as a process wherein an individual is actively involved in linking new ideas with current ideas and experience. Learning by construction and involving changes is similar to the idea that the construction of new knowledge takes place at a construction site consisting of existing structures built on a foundation (Cobern, 1993). The notion of conceptual change involves the restructuring of relationships among existing concepts and often requires the acquisition of entirely new concepts. The students who learn something are the ones who understand a new idea, judge its truth value, judge its consistency with other ideas, and are willing to change their minds to accept it. It is recognized that learning does not take place in a social vacuum (Driver, 1995). Driver (1995) indicated that whether or not an individual's ideas are affirmed and shared by others in classroom exchanges affects how the knowledge construction process is shaped. The nature of argumentation has the potential to contribute to the collective development and judgment of scientific knowledge claims and the identification of reliable and consensual descriptions of nature (Kolsto & Ratcliffe, 2008, p. 117). Much effort and many studies have focused on fostering students' conceptual change from the constructivist viewpoint (She, 2004; She & Lee, 2008; She & Liao, 2010; Hewson & Hewson, 1988; Venville & Treagust, 1998). …

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