, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 63-97

A Comparison of the Collaborative Scientific Argumentation Practices of Two High and Two Low Performing Groups

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Abstract

This qualitative study examines the interactions between individuals, ideas, and materials as two high and two low performing groups of students engaged in a process of collaborative scientific argumentation. To engage students in collaborative scientific argumentation the students were randomly assigned to small groups of three students each. Each triad was asked to critique six alternative explanations for a discrepant event and to produce a single written argument justifying the explanation they felt was most valid or acceptable. The two higher performing triads produced arguments that included a sufficient and accurate explanation that was well supported with appropriate evidence and reasoning while the two lower performing triads produced arguments that included an inaccurate explanation supported by inappropriate justification. A verbal analysis of the interactive processes that took place within these four triads identified five distinct differences in the ways these triads engaged in collaborative scientific argumentation that seemed to promote or constrain the development of high quality written arguments. These differences include (1) the number of unique ideas introduced into the conversation, (2) how individuals responded to these ideas, (3) how often individuals challenged ideas when discussing them, (4) the criteria individuals used to distinguish between ideas, and (5) how group members used the available corpus of data. The conclusions and implications of this study include recommendations for the design and revision of curriculum, the development of new instructional models and technology-enhanced learning environments, and areas for future research.