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Title: Learning in a community of practice: Factors impacting english‐learning students' engagement in scientific argumentation
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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 527-553
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    For students to meaningfully engage in science practices, substantive changes need to occur to deeply entrenched instructional approaches, particularly those related to classroom discourse. Because teachers are critical in establishing how students are permitted to interact in the classroom, it is imperative to examine their role in fostering learning environments in which students carry out science practices. This study explores how teachers describe, or frame, expectations for classroom discussions pertaining to the science practice of argumentation. Specifically, we use the theoretical lens of a participation framework to examine how teachers emphasize particular actions and goals for their students' argumentation. Multiple‐case study methodology was used to explore the relationship between two middle school teachers' framing for argumentation, and their students' engagement in an argumentation discussion. Findings revealed that, through talk moves and physical actions, both teachers emphasized the importance of students driving the argumentation and interacting with peers, resulting in students engaging in various types of dialogic interactions. However, variation in the two teachers' language highlighted different purposes for students to do so. One teacher explained that through these interactions, students could learn from peers, which could result in each individual student revising their original argument. The other teacher articulated that by working with peers and sharing ideas, classroom members would develop a communal understanding. These distinct goals aligned with different patterns in students' argumentation discussion, particularly in relation to students building on each other's ideas, which occurred more frequently in the classroom focused on communal understanding. The findings suggest the need to continue supporting teachers in developing and using rich instructional strategies to help students with dialogic interactions related to argumentation. This work also sheds light on the importance of how teachers frame the goals for student engagement in this science practice.

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  2. Abstract

    The various types of interactions that students carry out when engaged in scientific argumentation function together to move forward developing ideas and support sensemaking. As such, incorporating argumentation in classroom instruction holds promise for supporting students in developing and acting with an epistemic agency, being positioned, and taking up, opportunities to inform their classroom community's knowledge construction work. To foster science classrooms in which students take on active roles, argue to learn, and engage in authentic meaning‐making, the field needs better understandings of how students are supported in developing, and acting with, epistemic agency. We contend that focusing on critique—specifically, examining circumstances where students partake in this type of exchange with peers when engaged in argumentation—is a productive starting point. In this study, we characterized manifestations of epistemic agency as captured through instances of student critique during argumentation discussions in three middle school classrooms. Specifically, we used social network analysis to illuminate interactional patterns related to critique, and discourse analysis to highlight language moves individuals carried out when student critique was observed. Our findings point to there being multiple, sometimes conflating, approaches to addressing tensions inherent to helping students develop and act with epistemic agency. Our findings also suggest we can learn from critiquing practices that all students bring and employ in the classroom. This latter point is especially important when desiring to create and foster equitable learning environments, where all students' ways of knowing and doing science are appreciated, recognized, and used to support sensemaking.

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  3. Abstract

    Supporting student engagement in science practices requires rethinking how classroom learning occurs, specifically in terms of the interactions that help students build their own knowledge. The types of student‐driven exchanges fundamental to the science practice of argumentation differ greatly from traditional classroom interactions. To help classroom talk shift toward encompassing this practice, it is important to develop understandings of discourse patterns related to argumentation. Several analytic techniques have been used to examine a classroom's engagement in argumentation. However, new methodologies are needed for capturing and characterizing the complex, social dimensions of this science practice. This study explores social network analysis (SNA) as a means by which to attend to this demand. Specifically, this study utilizes SNA on data from two middle school classrooms that participated in an argumentation discussion called a science seminar. Sociograms (images of social relations derived from the SNA) offered visualizations of interactions during the science seminars, highlighting who exactly partook in the various aspects of argumentation, how, and to what degree. Findings suggest the importance of argumentation research examining ways to better support changes in classroom interactions. This study also points to the benefits of using SNA with other types of representations to capture a classroom's argumentation.

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  4. Background/Context: After-school programs that focus on integrating computer programming and mathematics in authentic environments are seldomly accessible to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly bilingual Latina students in rural contexts. Providing a context that broadens Latina students’ participation in mathematics and computer programming requires educators to carefully examine how verbal and nonverbal language is used to interact and to position students as they learn new concepts in middle school. This is also an important stage for adolescents because they are likely to make decisions about their future careers in STEM. Having access to discourse and teaching practices that invite students to participate in mathematics and computer programming affords them opportunities to engage with these fields. Purpose/Focus of Study: This case study analyzes how small-group interactions mediated the positionings of Cindy, a bilingual Latina, as she learned binary numbers in an after-school program that integrated computer programming and mathematics (CPM). Setting: The Advancing Out-of-School Learning in Mathematics and Engineering (AOLME) program was held in a rural bilingual (Spanish and English) middle school in the Southwest. The after-school program was designed to provide experiences for primarily Latinx students to learn how to integrate mathematics with computer programming using Raspberry Pi and Python as a platform. Our case study explores how Cindy was positioned as she interacted with two undergraduate engineering students who served as facilitators while learning binary numbers with a group of three middle school students. Research Design: This single intrinsic case focused on exploring how small-group interactions among four students mediated Cindy’s positionings as she learned binary numbers through her participation in AOLME. Data sources included twelve 90-minute video sessions and Cindy’s journal and curriculum binder. Video logs were created, and transcripts were coded to describe verbal and nonverbal interactions among the facilitators and Cindy. Analysis of select episodes was conducted using systemic functional linguistics (SFL), specifically language modality, to identify how positioning took place. These episodes and positioning analysis describe how Cindy, with others, navigated the process of learning binary numbers under the stereotype that female students are not as good at mathematics as male students. Findings: From our analysis, three themes that emerged from the data portray Cindy’s experiences learning binary numbers. The major themes are: (1) Cindy’s struggle to reveal her understanding of binary numbers in a competitive context, (2) Cindy’s use of “fake it until you make it” to hide her cognitive dissonance, and (3) the use of Spanish and peers’ support to resolve Cindy’s understanding of binary numbers. The positioning patterns observed help us learn how, when Cindy’s bilingualism was viewed and promoted as an asset, this social context worked as a generative axis that addressed the challenges of learning binary numbers. The contrasting episodes highlight the facilitators’ productive teaching strategies and relations that nurtured Cindy’s social and intellectual participation in CPM. Conclusions/Recommendations: Cindy’s case demonstrates how the facilitator’s teaching, and participants’ interactions and discourse practices contributed to her qualitatively different positionings while she learned binary numbers, and how she persevered in this process. Analysis of communication acts supported our understanding of how Cindy’s positionings underpinned the discourse; how the facilitators’ and students’ discourse formed, shaped, or shifted Cindy’s positioning; and how discourse was larger than gender storylines that went beyond classroom interactions. Cindy’s case reveals the danger of placing students in “struggle” instead of a “productive struggle.” The findings illustrated that when Cindy was placed in struggle when confronting responding moves by the facilitator, her “safe” reaction was hiding and avoiding. In contrast, we also learned about the importance of empathetic, nurturing supporting responses that encourage students’ productive struggle to do better. We invite instructors to notice students’ hiding or avoiding and consider Cindy’s case. Furthermore, we recommend that teachers notice their choice of language because this is important in terms of positioning students. We also highlight Cindy’s agency as she chose to take up her friend’s suggestion to “fake it” rather than give up. 
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  5. Abstract

    Flourishing in today's global society requires citizens that are both intelligent consumers and producers of scientific understanding. Indeed, the modern world is facing ever‐more complex problems that require innovative ways of thinking about, around, and with science. As numerous educational stakeholders have suggested, such skills and abilities are not innate and must, therefore, be taught (e.g., McNeill & Krajcik,Journal of Research in Science Teaching,45(1), 53–78. 2008). However, such instruction requires a fundamental shift in science pedagogy so as to foster knowledge and practices like deep, conceptual understanding, model‐based reasoning, and oral and written argumentation where scientific evidence is evaluated (National Research Council,Next Generation Science Standards: For States, by States, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013). The purpose of our quasi‐experimental study was to examine the effectiveness of Quality Talk Science, a professional development model and intervention, in fostering changes in teachers’ and students’ discourse practices as well as their conceptual understanding and scientific argumentation. Findings revealed treatment teachers’ and students’ discourse practices better reflected critical‐analytic thinking and argumentation at posttest relative to comparison classrooms. Similarly, at posttest treatment students produced stronger written scientific arguments than comparison students. Students’ growth in conceptual understanding was nonsignificant. These findings suggest discourse interventions such as Quality Talk Science can improve high‐school students’ ability to engage in scientific argumentation.

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