Academic journal article Science Scope

Present, Critique, Reflect, and Refine: Supporting Evidence-Based Argumentation through Conceptual Modeling

Academic journal article Science Scope

Present, Critique, Reflect, and Refine: Supporting Evidence-Based Argumentation through Conceptual Modeling

Article excerpt

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As science educators, we sometimes struggle to create a culture of learning through argumentation in our classrooms. Present, Critique, Reflect, and Refine (PCRR) is a teaching strategy that shows how models can be used to teach argumentation. This strategy is effective for teaching argumentation because "every scientific model is an argument: a case being made in the court of experts" (Gilbert 2011; Figure 2). PCRR also lends itself to the three-dimensional approach to learning highlighted in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The PCRR strategy:

* promotes deep conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena in various NGSS disciplinary core ideas (DCIs) through the development of explanatory models that can later be applied to enrich student understanding and help explain other phenomena (crosscutting concepts [CCs]);

* develops an inquiry-driven, evidence-based mindset that supports model-based science teaching and three-dimensional learning and assessment; and

* mimics steps scientists complete during their research and peer review, when they share their findings with the scientific community (Science and Engineering Practice [SEP] 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information; NGSS Lead States 2013).

Breaking down PCRR

This section contextualizes each of the four steps of the PCRR process by discussing a phenomenon--in this case, solubility--that I taught using the strategy. I first explain the general structure of each part and then discuss the tasks my students performed during each portion.

Step 1: Creating arguments and presenting models

Teachers can ask students to model their understanding prior to an investigation to build deeper conceptual understanding, which is then defended with evidence gathered during the investigation. Alternatively, they can ask students to create a model after they investigate and have data to defend their arguments. The first approach results in models based solely on preconceptions and prior experiences, and it enables students to assess how much they have learned when they compare their initial model to their evidence-based model, deepening their understanding of applicable SEPs and DCIs. During PCRR, students critique each other's initial models after the investigation, allowing them to apply what they have learned from their findings and research. The second approach, which is emphasized in this article, asks students to create a model that reflects their initial evidence-based arguments and research. This option focuses more on developing arguments that are based on evidence, not preconceptions.

When we piloted the PCRR strategy, we asked students to create models of molecular motion in hot water versus cold water. By observing how quickly food coloring spreads in warm and cold water, respectively, students established an understanding that liquid molecules move and that the rate of motion is temperature dependent. After this investigation, they concluded that warmer molecules move faster than cooler molecules. Students created arguments supporting this claim using the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) framework (see Resources). Several weeks later, students studied how changing variables in their investigation affected the rate of dissolving candy. After investigating their questions, students were asked to create a model that represented their results. I asked students to include their investigation methodology to make a visual representation demonstrating how they thought the phenomenon occurs. They also wrote their evidence next to various components of their visual model to support their arguments. This was a sort of visual CER. Students then had to present their model to another group. I had each group share its model with two other groups who critiqued (peer-reviewed) them.

Step 2: Critique

When introducing the Critique portion of PCRR, teachers should provide guidelines that emphasize the importance of evaluating other groups' arguments, which helps ensure that student comments lead to meaningful reflection and refinement. …

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