Scientific Argumentation

While teenagers generally need no incentive to argue, they do need help understanding and achieving argumentation as a scientific practice. Geniverse gives teachers a platform for facilitating scientific argumentation in the classroom. Students who use Geniverse software learn to reason their way through genetic challenges by crafting experiments that probe for information and answers, generating their own data sets and conclusions. Through a combination of writing as an apporoach to argument, in addition to carefully scaffolded small group discussions and classroom-wide discourse, teachers use Geniverse to weave argumentation into their genetics curriculum. 

CER Form

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) encourage a classroom shift to the practices of science, including carrying out investigations, engaging in argument from evidence, and communicating information. In argumentation challenges, students demonstrate their understanding of inheritance mechanisms by doing virtual experiments and writing a claim, supported with evidence and reasoning. Submitting their argument earns students a quill. Teachers can view all student entries to the Journal, they are saved in the downloadable Star Report.

Research indicates that participating in argumentation discourse helps students develop a deeper understanding of science content (McNeill & Krajcik, 2009). In Geniverse, students’ written scientific explanations serve either as preparation for structured classroom discourse or can be the result of that discourse. The Geniverse teacher materials provided here in Geniversity include suggestions, sample lesson plans, and strategies for structuring and supporting the discourse aspect of argumentation.

Scaffolding Argumentation

Students’ first argumentation experience in Geniverse is highly scaffolded. They are presented with a choice of four claims. Students then perform breeding experiments, generating data to inform their choice and to use as evidence for the claim they support. As students progress through Geniverse, they encounter argumentation more frequently and scaffolding is gradually reduced. Eventually, the software allocates different strains of drakes to different students, so that small group work is required to solve a challenge.

Argumentation in Geniverse is based on work in Supporting grade 5-8 students in constructing explanations in science: the claim, evidence, and reasoning framework for talk and writing. (McNeill, Katherine L., and Joseph S. Krajcik. Boston: Pearson, 2012.) and provides students with the opportunity to write their own arguments in the form of CERs (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning). This is the rubric we developed for use with our research.

The Geniverse lesson plans draw upon strategies in Science formative assessment:  75 practical strategies for linking assessment, instruction, and learning (Keeley, Page. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008.) to support the discussions students need to engage in as part of the argumentation process.

We highly recommend these two books!  

Click here for additional resources about scientific argumentation.