Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Exploring Power Distribution and Its Influence on the Process of Argumentation in a POGIL Biochemistry Classroom

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Exploring Power Distribution and Its Influence on the Process of Argumentation in a POGIL Biochemistry Classroom

Article excerpt

National needs around workforce demands have changed, and employers increasingly seek job applicants who are strong in oral communication, teamwork-collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills but find that there is dearth of these socio-scientific skills in the hiring market (Jerald, 2009, p. 47). This is resonant in the National Research Council (2010) report, Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st-Century Skills, which cites five skill sets important for college and career in the 21st century. These skills include adaptability, complex communications, nonroutine problem solving, self-management, and systems thinking (Bybee, 2013; National Research Council, 2010). Guidelines for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses emphasize professional socioscientific skills such as problem solving, learning how to access and use science literature, collaborating with other students, and engaging in oral and written communication (American Chemical Society, 2008; McCoy & Darbeau, 2013; University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013). One cross-cutting socio-scientific skill is argumentation, which is the process of supporting or refuting a conclusion using evidence and theory (Suppe, 1998). Argumentation is central to science practice (Osborne, Erduran, & Simon, 2004a) and leads to increases in problem solving and critical thinking when supported in the classroom (Case, 2005; Willingham, 2007). The activity of engaging in argumentation deepens content acquisition (Jimenez-Aleixandre, Bugallo, & Duschl, 2000; Jimenez-Aleixandre & Pereiro-Munhoz, 2002) and helps students become increasingly literate in science and able to access scientific ideas and language.

This has postgraduate implications for job seekers, particularly in the STEM field. One of the recommendations of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012) is for STEM courses to adopt evidence-based teaching and learning practices. This includes making changes to the course structure, learning environment, curriculum, and learning objectives, and increasing opportunities for research.

In response, innovative learning environments have emerged that include problem-based learning (Deek, Kimmel, & McHugh, 1998; Harmon et al., 2002; Maskell, 1999), peer-led team learning (Haller, Gallagher, Weldon, & Felder, 2000; Horwitz et al., 2009), modeling (Hestenes, 2010), and process-oriented guided inquiry learning (POGILs; Farrell, Moog, & Spencer, 1999). In several of these studies, researchers were surprised to find that gains have been either equal to or minimal to classrooms that use traditional forms of teaching (National Research Council, 2014; Seymour, Wiese, Hunter, & Daffinrud, 2000; Smits, Verbeek, & De Buisonje, 2002). These researchers have noted, however, that gains may have been applied to other noncontent/nonacademic areas such as disposition toward science, communication, and collaboration skills, but each study did not examine this because of scope and time constraints.

This case study seeks to explore argumentation in the inquiry-oriented classroom by examining the discourse move sequences that exist in small-group discussions in a biochemistry Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activity. This case study is part of a larger study that investigates how high-quality argumentation can be supported when teaching biochemistry in a POGIL-based classroom. The POGIL activity asked students to discuss a chemical mechanism in a particular part of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle (also known as the citric acid cycle or the Krebs cycle). The power dynamics that exist in the interactive process of argumentation and the discourse patterns that guide and facilitate argumentation are investigated. Specifically, we explore the usefulness of implementing Toulmin's Argumentation Pattern (TAP; Toulmin, 1958, 1969), Inquiry-Oriented Discursive Moves (IODM), and turn-at-talk analysis frameworks in a coordinated fashion to ask:

* What classroom and interaction structures guide and sustain argumentation (using TAP analysis) to teach and learn chemistry concepts? …

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