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A Way to Promote Learning During Laboratory Activities

A Way to Promote Learning During Laboratory Activities

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Th Sin Th
42
n
 America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Sci- ence
(2005), the National Research Council (NRC)makes several suggestions or how laboratory activitiescan be changed to improve students’ skills and under-standing o science: First, laboratory activities need to bemore inquiry-based so students can develop practical skillsand an understanding o the ambiguity and complexity as-sociated with empirical work in science. Second, studentsneed opportunities to read, write, and engage in critical dis-cussions as they work. Finally, it is important to encouragestudents to construct or critique arguments (i.e., an expla-nation supported by one or more reasons) and to embed di-agnostic, ormative, or educative assessment into the in-struction sequence. The NRC describes laboratory-basedinstruction that ullls these requirements as an integratedinstructional unit.
 Victor Sampson, Jonathon Grooms, and Joi Walker
Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) is an instructionalmodel that enables science teachers to transorm a traditionallaboratory activity into a short integrated instructional unit.The model helps teachers meet the goals outlined by theNRC by providing opportunities or students to design theirown investigations, gather and analyze data, communicatetheir ideas with others during structured and interactiveargumentation sessions, write investigation reports to shareand document their work, and engage in peer review duringa laboratory investigation. Current research indicates that thistype o instruction is a more eective way to enhance students’understanding o content and the development o scienticknowledge than traditional lab activities (NRC 2007).Integrated instructional units also appear to be an eectiveway to cultivate students’ interest in science and help themdevelop reading, writing, and verbal communication skills.
 A way to promote learning during laboratory activities
 
Novmb 2009
43
The ADI instructional model
The ADI instructional model consists o the ollowing steps:
u
The
identication o a task
that creates a need or studentsto make sense o a phenomenon or solve a problem;
u
the
 generation and analysis o data
by small groups o stu-dents using a method o their own design;
u
the
 production o a tentative argument
by each group thatarticulates and justies an explanation in a medium thatcan be shared with others;
u
an
 argumentation session
in which each group shares its ar-gument and then critiques and renes its explanations;
u
an
investigation report
written by individual students thatexplains the goal o the work and the method used, andprovides a well-reasoned argument;
u
a
 double-blind peer review
o these reports to ensure qual-ity and generate high-quality eedback or the individualauthors;
u
the subsequent
 revision o the report
based on the resultso the peer review; and
u
an
 explicit and refective discussion
about the inquiry.To illustrate how the ADI instructional model works,we describe an ADI lesson developed or a 10th-gradechemistry class. This example lesson was designed tohelp students understand the nature o chemical reactions(NRC 1996; Content Standard C, grades 9–12) and developthe abilities needed to do scientic inquiry (NRC 1996;Content Standard A, grades 9–12). The lesson also givesstudents an opportunity to improve their writing andverbal communication skills, their understanding o thewriting process, and their ability to interpret evidence andreason in a scientic manner. In the ollowing sections,we describe the purpose o each ADI step, the nature o classroom activity during each step, and how to supportstudents as they work.
Identification of the task
For this rst ADI step, teachers initiate the learning se-quence and introduce the major topic to be studied. Theprimary purpose o this step is to capture students’ atten-tion, establish connections between past and present learn-ing experiences, and highlight upcoming activities. At theend o this stage, students should be mentally engaged inthe topic and should begin to think about how it relates totheir previous class experiences.We recommend using a handout that includes a brie introduction and a researchable question to answer, aproblem to solve, or a task to complete. This handout can alsoinclude other important inormation that students can useduring the second step o the instructional model (e.g., a listo materials that can be used in the lab or saety guidelines).Figure 1 includes the introduction and the problem we gavestudents at the beginning o the example lesson.
Generation and analysis of data
During this second step, students work in collaborativegroups to develop and implement a method to address theproblem. The intention is to provide students with an op-portunity to “interact directly with the material world usingthe tools, data-collection techniques, models, and theories o science” (NRC 2005, p. 3). This type o practical work canbe challenging or students, so it helps i teachers providethem with a list o materials that can be used during theinvestigation and some hints to help get them started. Weusually include this inormation in the handout that we sup-ply to students at the beginning o the investigation underthe headings “Materials Available” and “Getting Started.”In our chemistry lab, or example, we told students theycould use materials such as well plates, pH paper, test tubes, alist o solubility rules, and a polyatomic ion chart during theirinvestigation. We also suggested that students rst gather dataabout what happens when the reactants are mixed and then usethe solubility rules and list o polyatomic ions to determine theproducts o the our reactions. We cautioned students aboutsaety concerns, especially when handling acids.Teachers can also require students to write out aninvestigation proposal that describes the method theyintend to use, especially i the investigation is complex or
Figure 1
Information provided at the beginningof the example lesson.
Introduction:
You have already seen many chemicalreactions. You have also learned how to recognizethe evidence o a chemical reaction. These include acolor change, the ormation o a solid, production o bubbles, or a change in pH or temperature. Chemistsdescribe these reactions using chemical ormulas. Youhave learned how to read chemical ormulas and howto balance them. But i we mix two or more productstogether, how can we fgure out what products areormed? In this investigation, you will need to fgureout how to identiy the products that are ormed dur-ing a chemical reaction.
The problem:
Determine the balanced chemical or-mula or the ollowing reactions:HCl (aq) + Zn (s)
 HCl (aq) + NaHCO
3
(s)
 Al (s) + H
2
SO
4
(aq)
 CuCl
2
(aq) + AgNO
3
(aq)
 
 
Th Sin Th
44
requires the use o potentially hazardous chemicals.A teacher can then quickly check group proposalsto ensure that the student-designed investigationswill be ruitul and sae. These types o strategiessteer students in a productive direction andsupport them as they develop and implement theirinvestigations.It is important that the classroom teacher circulaterom group to group to serve as a resource person orstudents as they work through this step o the model.Teachers need to ensure that students think about whatthey are doing and why they are doing it as they gatherdata. Teachers can ask probing questions such as, “Howdo you know that your data is reliable?” “What else doyou need to gure out?” or “Do you have enough datato support your ideas?”
Production of a tentativeargument
The next stage o ADI calls or students to create anargument that consists o an explanation, evidence,and reasoning in a medium that can be shared withothers (e.g., a large whiteboard) (Figure 2).The explanation component o the argument is ananswer to the research question that guides the investigation.Depending on the question, this explanation can oer asolution to a problem (e.g., the unknown powder is sodiumchloride), articulate a descriptive relationship (e.g., as thetemperature o a gas increases, so does its volume), or providea causal mechanism (e.g., pressure is the result o the orceexerted by gas molecules hitting the walls o a container).The evidence component o the argument includesmeasurements or observations to support the validity o the explanation. This evidence can take on a number o orms ranging rom traditional numerical data (e.g., mass,time, pH, or temperature) to qualitative observations(e.g., the color changed, or a gas evolved). However, orthis inormation to be considered evidence, it shouldshow a trend over time, a dierence between groups, or arelationship among variables.The reasoning component o the argument includes arationalization that indicates why the evidence supports theclaim and why the evidence provided should be countedas evidence. In our chemistry lesson, students produced anargument that included a balanced chemical equation oreach reaction (their explanation), the evidence they wereusing to support their ideas (a precipitate ormed or a gasevolved), and their reasoning (precipitates orm as a resulto a double-replacement reaction where at least one productis insoluble).This step o the model is designed to ocus students’attention on the importance o argument in science. Studentsneed to understand that scientists must be able to supporttheir explanations with evidence and reasoning. This stepalso helps students learn how to determine i available dataare relevant, sucient, and convincing enough to supporttheir claims. More important, this step provides teachersand other students with a window into students’ thinkingby making their ideas, evidence, and reasoning visible. Thisin turn enables students to evaluate competing ideas andweed out explanations that are inaccurate or do not t withthe available data. This process helps students make senseo what they are doing and seeing.
The argumentation session
We use the term
 argumentation session
to describe the ourthADI step. In this step, students are given an opportunity toevaluate or revise the products, processes, and contexts o their investigations in a whole-class or small-group ormat.We include this step in the model because research indicatesthat students learn more when they are exposed to the ideaso others, respond to peers’ questions and challenges, articu-late more substantial warrants or their views, and evaluatethe merits o competing ideas (NRC 2007). The step alsoprovides an opportunity or teachers to assess student prog-ress and thinking.The argumentation sessions are designed to promotelearning by taking advantage o the variation in student ideasand helping groups negotiate criteria or valid inerences.For example, Linn and Eylon suggest that students otenhave a repertoire o ideas about a given phenomenon thatincludes “ideas that are sound, contradictory, conused,
Figure 2
Sample whiteboard for tentativearguments.
This type o medium helps students make their thinking andreasoning visible.
The goal of your investigation
What were you trying to do?
Groupmembernames Your explanation
How do you explainthe phenomenon underinvestigation?
 Your evidence andreasoning
How can you justiy your explanation?

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