Supporting Teacher Practice to Facilitate and Assess Oral Scientific Argumentation: Embedding a Real-Time Assessment of Speaking and Listening into an Argumentation-Rich Curriculum (Collaborative Research: Henderson)

The fundamental purpose of this project is to support teacher practice and professional learning around oral scientific argumentation in order to improve the quality of this practice in classrooms. The key outcome of this work will be a research-informed and field-tested prototype to improve the quality of teaching and learning argumentation in middle school science classrooms usable in different learning environments.

Full Description: 

This is an early-stage design and development collaborative study submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program, in response to Program Solicitation NSF 15-592. The fundamental purpose of this project is to support teacher practice and professional learning around oral scientific argumentation in order to improve the quality of this practice in classrooms. To achieve this purpose, the project will examine the validity of a new technology-based formative assessment tool for classroom argumentation--"Diagnosing the Argumentation Levels of Groups" (DiALoG)--for which psychometric validation work has been conducted in a laboratory setting. The DiALoG assessment tool allows teachers to document classroom talk and display scores across multiple dimensions--both intrapersonal and interpersonal--for formative assessment purposes. The project will work with 6th-8th grade science teachers to monitor and support argumentation through real-time formative assessment data generated by the DiALoG instrument. DiALoG will be used in conjunction with "Amplify Science", a Lawrence Hall of Science-developed curriculum that incorporates the science practice of engaging in argument from evidence, and a suite of newly developed Responsive Mini-Lessons (RMLs), which consist of 20-30 minute instructional strategies designed to assist teachers to provide feedback to students' thinking and follow-up to argumentation episodes that the DiALoG tool identifies in need of further support. The study will allow the refinement and expansion of DiALoG and evaluation of its impact on teacher pedagogical content knowledge and formative assessment practices in widespread classroom use.

The project will address two specific research questions: (1) How can DiALoG be refined to provide a formative assessment tool for oral argumentation that is reliable, practical, and useful in middle school classrooms?; and (2) How does the use of DiALoG affect teacher formative assessment practices around evidence-based argumentation, when implementing science units designed to support oral argumentation? In order to answer these questions, the project will conduct a randomized control trial with 100 teachers: 50 will teach argumentation-focused curriculum with DiALoG, 50 will teach the same curriculum without DiALoG. Both control and treatment teachers will receive all digital and physical materials needed to teach three Amplify Science curriculum units. Treatment teachers will be provided also with the most recent version of DiALoG, including the linked RMLs, as well as support materials for using DiALoG with the Amplify curriculum. A subgroup of focus teachers (5 from the treatment group, and 5 from the control group) will be the subject of additional data collection and analysis. Three focus lessons, in which students are engaging in small-group or whole-class oral argumentation, will be selected from each of the three Amplify Science curricular units. Teacher measures for the randomized control trial will include validated instruments, such as (a) a pre- and post-assessment of teacher pedagogical content knowledge; (b) post-lesson and post-unit surveys in which teachers will self-report on their formative assessment practices; and (c) video recordings of selected lessons in the focus classrooms. In order to observe potential differences in formative assessment practices between treatment and control, protocols will be used to analyze the video recordings of focus classrooms, including (a) Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol; (b) Assessment of Scientific Argumentation inside the Classroom; and (c) Formative Assessment for Teachers and Students. The key outcome of this work will be a research-informed and field-tested prototype to improve the quality of teaching and learning argumentation in middle school science classrooms usable in different learning environments.

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