Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Argument Driven Inquiry--A Focus for Secondary Science

I was invited to the classroom of Ms. Kristen Bundren at Spain Park High School to share in an Argument Driven Inquiry with freshmen students in her pre-AP biology class.

This was her students first ADI lesson.  She gave an outstanding explanation of the goal of the lesson and clarifying what students would be doing to achieve the goal.  She began with a discussion of the critical components of ADI, the question, the claim, the evidence and the justification.

The CONTENT goal was for the students to learn what characteristics define life.  This topic had not been discussed in class and this ADI served as the springboard to discuss that key biological concept.  In other words, ABC, Activity Before Concept.   In addition, the students had the opportunity to learn something about viruses, a biological topic that is often difficult to "fit" easily into a biology curriculum.  This lesson was adapted from one of the lessons in Scientific Argumentation in Biology, 30 Classroom Activities.  Students were given a two-page background on viruses and another table that compared characteristics of viruses to other living and non-living things.

Students worked in groups of four, read and discussed the materials they were given and then were charged to write the four key components on their whiteboard.  Of course, the question was given, the students were to make their own claim, present their evidence, and then state their justification.

Some student groups claimed viruses WERE alive; other students claimed that viruses WERE NOT alive.  Ms. Bundren let the students choose HOW to present their evidence.  Many chose tables, one group chose a Venn diagram.  Finally, students justified their claim by using the evidence they had presented.  They were also proud of their work!

While I was not there to see student groups observe each other's work, Ms. Bundren told me that in an earlier class, different student groups had made conflicting claims and it made the discussion very rich.  Students were ARGUING BASED ON EVIDENCE!

I asked Kristen to share some of her thoughts about the ADI lesson.  She said, "the biggest challenge for this lesson was directing students to focus not on their opinions or prior knowledge, but on the data that was in front of them. Midway through fourth period, one group was erasing their entire board. I asked the group why, and one member said, 'We thought the viruses were living, but we've changed our minds'. When asked why, the students explained that after looking at the data they realized that their evidence did not support their original claim. It was so much fun to see the students work through the scientific process."

Look for more ADI stories!

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