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Argument-Driven Inquiry in
Undergraduate Chemistry Labs: The
Impact on Students? Conceptual
Understanding, Argument Skills, and
Attitudes Toward Science
By Joi Phelps Walker, Victor Sampson, Jonathon Grooms, Brittany Anderson, and Carol O. Zimmerman
This article describes a new
instructional model called
Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI).
This model is designed to promote
student engagement in processes of
investigation design and scientific
argumentation. In this study,
the ADI instructional model is
compared with a more traditional
approach to instruction across 16
laboratory sections of introductory
college chemistry. Data was
collected pre- and postintervention
to address students? conceptual
understanding of chemistry, ability
to use evidence and reasoning
to support a conclusion, and
attitude toward chemistry. Results
indicated significant differences
between instructional approaches
on measures of students? abilities
to use evidence and reasoning
while no significant differences in
conceptual understanding were
observed. Students in the ADI
sections, particularly females, had a
significantly more positive attitude
toward chemistry, according to
postcourse measures. Implications
for the use of the ADI instructional
model are discussed.
Journal of College Science Teaching
number of innovative instructional methods have
been developed over the
last decade in order to
promote and support inquiry-based
learning in laboratory courses at the
undergraduate level. These methods
include instructional models, such
as Cooperative Chemistry (Cooper, 1994; Cooper & Kerns, 2006),
Process Oriented Guided Inquiry
Learning (Farrell, Moog, & Spencer, 1999), Peer-Led Guided Inquiry
(Lewis & Lewis, 2005, 2008), and
the Science Writing Heuristic (Wallace, Hand, & Yang, 2005). In general, these methods are designed to
provide undergraduate students with
opportunities to explore puzzling
events, develop conclusions that are
based on data, and make their ideas
public by sharing them in small
groups or in whole-class discussions.
These methods are also designed to
create a classroom community that
will help students understand complex content, learn how to design an
investigation, and reflect on the nature of scientific knowledge.
Over the last few years, however, there has been a shift in focus
from lab-based instruction that is
designed to promote inquiry and
exploration to instruction that also
recognizes the importance of argumentation in science (Osborne,
2010). Argumentation can play an
important role in students? learning of science because it is central
to both the process of scientific
reasoning and the development of
conceptual understanding (Duschl
& Osborne, 2002; Osborne, 2010).
It is through the combination of inquiry and argumentation, we argue,
that students can begin to develop
scientific reasoning skills and an understanding of scientific content and
practices needed to be successful in
advanced science courses. In this
article, we first describe a new instructional model called ArgumentDriven Inquiry (ADI; Sampson,
Walker, & Grooms, 2009; Walker,
Sampson, & Zimmerman, 2011) that
we have developed to help make lab
activities at the undergraduate level
more authentic and to place a greater
emphasis on the role of argumentation during the process of scientific
inquiry. We then report the results
of a comparative study that we conducted to examine the impact of this
model as a way to improve students?
understanding of content, argument
skills, and attitudes toward science.
Overview of ADI
The intent of the ADI instructional model is to frame the goal of a
laboratory activity as an effort to
develop an argument that provides
and supports an explanation for a
research question. As part of this effort, students are required to design
and implement their own method to
gather and analyze data, communicate and justify their ideas with others during interactive argumentation
sessions, write investigation reports
to share and document their work,
and engage in peer review. ADI is
also designed to help students develop important habits of mind and
critical-thinking skills by emphasizing the role scientific argumentation plays in the generation and
validation of scientific knowledge
(Driver, Newton, & Osborne, 2000;
Duschl & Osborne, 2002; Sampson
& Clark, 2006; Toulmin, 1958). The
current iteration of the ADI instructional model consists of seven steps.
The first step of the model is the
identification of the task. The goal
of the teacher during this step of
the model is to introduce the major
topic to be studied and to initiate
the laboratory activity. Similar to
other instructional models, such as
the Science Writing Heuristic (Wallace et al., 2005) or the 5E Learning
Cycle (Bybee et al., 2006), this step
is designed to capture the students?
attention and interest. The students
are provided with a handout that
includes a brief introduction and a
researchable question to answer as
well as a list of materials that can be
used during the investigation.
The second step of the model is
data generation. During this step,
students work in a collaborative
group in order to first develop a
method (e.g., an experiment, a systematic observation) to address the
problem or to answer the research
question and then use this method
to gather data. This step affords
students an opportunity to interact
directly with the material world
using appropriate tools and data
collection techniques and to learn
how to deal with the ambiguities of
empirical work.
The third step is the production
of a tentative argument. This stage
of the instructional model calls for
students to construct an argument
that consists of a claim, evidence,
and rationale on a large whiteboard.
We def???????????ine a claim as a conjecture,
explanation, answer to a research
question, or some other type of conclusion. The evidence component of
an argument refers to measurements
or observations that are used to show
a (1) trend over time, (2) difference
between groups or objects, or (3)
relationship between variables. The
rationale is a statement that indicates
why the evidence supports the claim
and why the evidence provided
should count as evidence. This step
is designed to emphasize the importance of argument in science (i.e.,
an attempt to establish or validate
a claim on the basis of reasons). It
is also included to help students develop a basic understanding of what
counts as a high-quality argument
in science and how to determine if
available evidence is valid, relevant,
sufficient, and convincing enough
to support a claim. Finally, this step
makes students? ideas, evidence,
and reasoning visible to each other,
which, in turn, enables students
to evaluate competing ideas and
eliminate conjectures during the next
stage of the instructional model.
The fourth step is an argumentation session. During this stage, small
groups share their arguments with
other groups and critique the work
of others in order to determine which
claim is the most valid and acceptable or to refine a claim to make it
more valid and acceptable. This step
is included in the model in order to
create a context that requires students
to take a critical look at the products
(i.e., conclusions or arguments) processes (i.e., methods), and context
(i.e., theoretical foundations) of an
investigation. It also provides teachers
with an opportunity to assess student
progress or thinking and to encourage
students to think about issues that may
have been overlooked or ignored.
The fifth step is the creation of an
investigation report. In this step of
the model, students are required to
produce a report that answers three
basic questions: What were you trying to do and why? What did you do
and why? What is your argument?
As students attempt to answer these
questions, they are encouraged to
think about what they know and how
they know it. They also must learn
to transform the data they gathered
into evidence in order to craft a highquality argument in science.
The sixth step is a double-blind
peer review of the reports. Once
students complete their investigation
reports, they submit three blind to
the classroom teacher. The teacher
randomly distributes sets of reports
to each lab group along with a peer
review sheet for each set. The peer
review sheet includes specific criteria
to be used to evaluate the quality of
an investigation report and space to
provide feedback to the author. The
review criteria are framed as questions, such as the following: Did the
author provide an adequate description of their method? Did the author
use genuine evidence to support their
claim? The lab groups review each
report as a team and then decide if it
can be accepted as is or if it needs to
Vol. 41, No. 4, 2012
be revised on the basis of the criteria
included on the peer review sheet.
The seventh and final step of the
ADI instructional model is the revision of the investigation report on
the basis of the results of the peerreview. The reports that are accepted
by the reviewers may be submitted
to the instructor at the end of step 6;
however, all students have the option
to revise their reports on the basis of
what they have read and the comments on their draft. Authors who
wrote papers that were not accepted
by their peers are required to rewrite
their reports based on the reviewers?
comments and suggestions. Once
completed, the revised reports (along
with the original version of the report and the peer-review sheet) are
submitted to the instructor for a final
evaluation. This approach is intended
to provide students the opportunity
to improve their mechanics, reasoning, and understanding of the content
without imposing a grade-related
penalty. It also provides students
with a chance to engage in the entire
writing process (i.e., the construction, evaluation, revision, and eventual submission of a manuscript) in
the context of science. This step,
once completed, brings the instructional sequence to a close.
Although we have defined the
steps of the model individually by
scope and purpose, all seven steps are
equally important in terms of achieving the intended goals and outcomes
of the ADI instructional model. These
steps are designed to be an integrated
instructional unit that gives students
an opportunity to engage in inquiry
and coordinate evidence to support
their claims, which is a key discursive practice of science (Driver et al.,
2000; Duschl & Osborne, 2002). The
seven stages of ADI, in other words,
are designed to encourage students to
Journal of College Science Teaching
move beyond looking for the ?right
answer? during a lab activity and to
help them focus more on understanding what claim they can make, why
they can make it, how they can justify
it, and why they should accept a particular claim over alternatives in the
context of science.
Impact of ADI on student
Overview of the study
The ADI instructional model was
piloted in select sections of the
General Chemistry I laboratory
course offered at a large community
college in the southeastern United
States during the 2008?2009 academic year. During these three semesters, the remaining lab sections
were taught using a traditional laboratory model. All of the instructors
had a master?s degree or a doctorate
in chemistry and a range of teaching experience that was equivalent
in the two groups. This arrangement
allowed us to directly compare the
impact of ADI with a traditional approach to laboratory instruction. We
chose to focus this study on students?
conceptual understanding of the
content, their ability to use evidence
and reasoning to support a claim,
and their attitudes toward science
at the end of the course. Conceptual
understanding was measured using
an assessment called a Chemical
Concept Inventory (CCI), which is
a multiple-choice exam that is designed to target student conceptual
understanding rather than factual
recall. Performance-based assessments were used to elicit written arguments from students, which then
could be evaluated in terms of ability to use evidence and reasoning to
support a claim. Finally, a survey
instrument was used to measure student attitude toward science.
The students in the ADI sections of the course participated in 6
investigations during the semester
because of the amount of time that
is required to complete all seven
steps of the model. Students in the
traditional lab sections, in contrast,
participated in 11 different investigations. The topics of the ADI investigation were identical to 6 of the
11 topics addressed in the traditional
labs (i.e., density, molecular formulas, solutions, limiting reagents,
thermochemistry, and chemical
reactions). The students in the traditional lab sections, however, had
an opportunity to complete five
more lab activities over the course
of the semester. The students in the
traditional labs were supplied with
a step-by-step procedure to follow,
a data table to fill out, and a set of
analysis questions to answer during
each investigation. The students
worked in pairs during the traditional labs, but most students left
class once the data was collected in
order to complete the calculations
and analysis questions individually.
A total of 186 students participated
in this study. The ethnic diversity of
the participants reflected the overall
population of the college (70% white
and 30% minority), as did the gender distribution (57% male and 43%
female). The students were not informed of the difference in the ADI
sections until the first lab meeting, so
as to reduce self-selection into a specific type of lab (note: this research
was approved by the Human Subjects Committee, and all participants
signed a consent form).
Data sources
A CCI was developed to be a nonmathematical examination cover-
ing basic chemical concepts that
are emphasized in this college
chemistry course (i.e., chemical
and physical properties, molecular
formulas, limiting reagent, thermochemistry, solutions, and chemical reactions) in order to evaluate
students understanding of content.
The CCI consists of 23 multiplechoice questions taken from several existing instruments (JCE,
2003; Mulford & Robinson, 2002)
and included some items written by
the authors. The questions required
students to interpret diagrams or
observations. Most of the questions were two tiered with the first
question asking about a chemical
or physical effect and the second
question asking for the reason for
the observed effect. The CCI was
submitted for expert review by the
faculty who identified some errors
and inconsistencies with the questions. The revised instrument was
administered in a pilot study to
students in six laboratory sections
(~150 students). An item analysis
for each question was then conducted and resulted in some revision or removal of individual questions. The internal consistency of
the final instrument has a KuderRichardson value of .75. The CCI
was administered as a pretest and a
posttest in all laboratory sections.
To measure students? conceptual
understanding of the content and
their argument skills, we used two
different performance tasks. The
first task, the Balloon Performance
Task (PT), was used to evaluate
student understanding of limiting
reagents and their ability to support
a claim with appropriate evidence
and reasoning (Walker, Sampson,
Zimmerman, & Grooms, 2011). In
this performance task, students were
presented with five flasks containing
Balloon performance task.
Rubric used to score balloon performance task.
Ratio of reactants
Answer (1 point each item)
Limiting reactant
NaHCO3, HC2H3O2 or neither
Color of solution
Solid present
Balloon inflation
The color indicates ?
The solid ?
The balloon size indicates that ?
equal amounts of 1 M acetic acid
with universal indicator and a balloon (containing various unknown
amounts of sodium bicarbonate)
stretched over the mouth of the
flask. Each group of four or five
students had a set of five ballooncovered flasks. They shook the
sodium bicarbonate from the balloon into the flask and observed the
reaction, the inflating of the balloon,
and the color change of the solution (see Figure 1). Students were
allowed to discuss their observations briefly before completing the
answer sheet individually. Students
were given 5 points extra credit for
making a reasonable effort on the
assessment, but their scores did
not factor into their overall grade
in the course. The answer sheet for
the performance task asked students
to identify the limiting reagent in
each flask, to provide evidence
for this conclusion, and to link the
evidence to the conclusion with adequate reasoning. The questions for
each flask were worth 7 points for a
total of 35 points. Table 1 presents
the scoring rubric for the Balloon
Vol. 41, No. 4, 2012
PT. Graduate students not directly
involved in the project scored the
answer sheets using the rubric. The
answers sheets for the two study
groups were mixed and randomly
distributed to the graduate students,
who were unaware of group affiliation. The interrater reliability of the
instrument, as measured by Cohen?s
Kappa, was .70.
The second performance task,
the Ice Block PT, was used to assess
students? ability to use evidence
and reasoning to support a conclusion in an unfamiliar context. This
performance task required students
to explain why ice placed on blocks
made of two different materials melts
at different rates. The Ice Block PT
required students to use their observations as well as data provided on an
information sheet to support a chosen
explanation. The rubric developed by
Sampson and Clark (2009) assigns
a score for evidence ranging from 0
to 3 points and a score for reasoning
ranging from 0 to 3 points for a possible total score of 6 points (Cohen?s
Kappa = .74). There were three possible pieces of evidence that could
be used to support a conclusion: (1)
observation that ice melts faster on
Block A, (2) thermal conductivity of
aluminum, and (3) observation that
Block A feels colder. Students were
awarded 1 point for including each
piece of evidence, and they were not
marked down for inappropriate evidence. The students were awarded 1
point for explaining how each piece
of evidence they included supported
their claim as well. The Ice Block
PT was administered as part of the
laboratory practical at the end of the
semester; lab stations were separated
by partitions to ensure independent
work on the assessment. One of
the researchers scored the student
answer sheets; however, the sheets
Journal of College Science Teaching
were numbered sequentially so that
the researcher was not aware of
group membership.
At the end of each semester,
students? attitude toward chemistry
lab was measured using an online
survey. The survey was based on the
Attitude Toward Science In School
Assessment (ATSSA; Germann,
1988). We adapted the ATSSA
slightly to make its application to
the chemistry laboratory clearer by
changing science class to chemistry
lab. Students answered 15 questions
using a 5-point Likert scale. Points
were assigned for each response from
1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly
agree), and the negative items were
reverse coded so that there was a
range of 15 to 75 for the total attitude
score. A neutral choice (neither agree
nor disagree) on every item would
result in a total attitude score on the
survey of 45. The internal consistent
of the survey, as measured by Cronbach?s alpha, was .91.
Results and discussion
The difference in pre/postintervention scores on the CCI test indicates
that the students in both the traditional lab sections, t(77) = 5.77, p < .001, d = .33, and the ADI lab sections, t(93) = 6.94, p <.001, d = .28, developed a better conceptual understanding of the content over the course of the semester. The ... Purchase answer to see full attachment

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