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The Nature of Argument Among Freshmen College Students, Science Teachers, and Practicing Scientists Issam Abi-El-Mona Rowan University Department of Teacher.

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Presentation on theme: "The Nature of Argument Among Freshmen College Students, Science Teachers, and Practicing Scientists Issam Abi-El-Mona Rowan University Department of Teacher."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Nature of Argument Among Freshmen College Students, Science Teachers, and Practicing Scientists Issam Abi-El-Mona Rowan University Department of Teacher Education Fouad Abd-El-Khalick University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Curriculum and Instruction AIMHE Annual Meeting September 24-26, 2008

2 Issues; Prior Research in Argumentation: Rarely researchers explicate what they mean by, or how they assess the validity or goodness of arguments Rarely are prior perceptions of nature of an argument from participants considered Analysis of student arguments using analytical frameworks Formalized and generic in nature (e.g.Toulmin) Not necessarily derived from studying scientific practice

3 Purpose of study This study aimed to: Elucidate college freshmen science students, secondary science teachers, and practicing scientists perceptions of argument Characterize the criteria deployed by participants to assess the validity or goodness of argument Examine how such perceptions and criteria compare to those of (or consistent with) Toulmins (1958) framework

4 Research questions What structural elements are evident in arguments about a socio-scientific issue generated by freshmen science students, secondary science teachers, and practicing scientists? How do these elements compare and contrast? What are freshmen science students, secondary science teachers, and practicing scientists perceptions of argument? How do these perceptions compare and contrast?

5 Research questions What criteria do freshmen science students, secondary science teachers, and practicing scientists draw upon when judging the validity of arguments? Are these criteria consistent among and/or different across the three groups? To what extent do participants perceptions of arguments draw upon elements that are characteristic of those of Toulmin?

6 Participants Three groups of participants (N = 30; 50% female) in a large, Midwestern University and neighboring communities: 10 Freshmen college students, 10 secondary science teachers, and 10 practicing scientists

7 Method Exploratory and qualitative in nature In-depth, semi-structured interviews Data collection occurred in two phases Arguments constructed based on issue (global warming) led to construction of maps (following Horn, 2003) Participants in each group assessed and provided feedback on Phase I arguments Interviewees identified features of a good argument (assessed goodness,validity and justified assessments)

8 Data analysis: Phase I Transcripts generated argument maps (via a team of three graduate students) Maps analyzed using Toulminian and non- Toulminian frameworks Analysis derived participants perceptions of the nature of argument. Later compared and contrasted both within and across the three groups

9 Data analysis: Phases II & III Phase II transcripts analyzed to Characterize participants perceptions of the nature of arguments Derive criteria deployed by participants to assess the validity or goodness of arguments Criteria were compared and contrasted both within and across the three groups Phase III: Comparing criteria derived from Phase II with those derived from Toulmins framework

10 Results: Non-Toulminian analysis Elements noted% Maps of STSci Claims-Prior Content Knowledge Claims-Conclusive50 70 Claims-Counterclaims (TOC) Facts-Examples20 40

11 Results: Toulminian analysis

12 Common perceptions of argument Data used shows clear support to claims made Explains methods used to collect data presented Demonstrates use of various types of quantitative (scientific) data Demonstrates knowledge of scientific facts Is unbiased, clear, comprehensive Is both credible and verifiable

13 Differing perceptions of argument Students: A product; persuasive power Students and Teachers: Visual representation; does not impose claims; avoids bias; addresses ethical issues; is relevant Teachers: Justification based on ethical issues Teachers and Scientists: A process (~scientific method); holistic view; reproducible; contains elemental structures (hypotheses-conclusions) Scientists: logical coherence

14 Major Criteria for Assessment of Argument

15 Minor Criteria for Assessment of Argument

16 Peer/Others Perceptions of Argument

17 Peer/other assessment of arguments Contrary to prior research assumptions, teachers were perceived to have the most complete or better arguments by all participant groups Elements used in assessment go beyond the field- invariant elements emphasized by Toulmin: Use of other (minor) criteria, which correspond to field-dependent elements specific to the context of science

18 Peer/other assessment of arguments Possible explanation: Teachers could be more skilled in forms of persuasive, holistic, and/or comprehensive discourse that are characteristic of the pedagogical practices of science teaching

19 Participants perceptions vs. Toulmin Correspondence with Toulmin in two major respects Major assessment criteria (except comprehen- sibility) map well onto Toulmins basic elements Minor criteria deployed by smaller groups of participants when assessing arguments relate to Toulmins dimension of field-dependent elements albeit more elaborately

20 Discussion Product vs. Process Bias and ethical issues vs. Logical coherence Data as most essential element in argument structure Use of elements-counterclaims Common elements with Toulmin were claims but unlike Toulmin data, and NOT warrants determine the validity of an argument

21 Conclusions Need to further understand perceptions of the specific nature of elements that compose an argument (e.g., what is considered to be credible data and what is not) Teaching practice needs to emphasize instruction on models that help identify how to develop structural elements (e.g., using counter claims) within inquiry based contexts

22 Conclusions Research efforts need to focus on developing context dependent criteria for analyzing and identifying arguments based on common perceptions of argument held by learners

23 Phase II interviews

24 Map Geography Across Groups MapsS%T%Sc% Number of cycles Web design (total)50 70 Linear design (total)203040

25 Results: Toulminian analysis ElementsS(f)T(f)Sc(f) Claims Data Warrants5129 Backings002 Rebuttals001 Qualifiers221 Maps showing Toulmin based Complete arguments (n=10) 456

26 Sample scientist map showing Toulmin excerpt

27 Sample student map showing Toulmin excerpt

28 Common assessment criteria of argument as designated by partcipants MajorMinor Data (mainly as support)Way of thinking Clarity of positionCompleteness of data ComprehensibilityAnalysis of data Logical coherencePersuasive power Holistic views Conclusive Good points made


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