Engaging Students in Scientific Activity and Scientific Controversy

Cavalli-Sforza, Gabrys, Lesgold & Weiner (1992 - 93?) Proceedings (?): Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), U of Pittsburgh

Article Summary

The authors describe a design, or prototype, for a ICAI system that would enable students to participate in science as a social practice, including analysing the merits of competing hypotheses and engaging in dialogical arguments in a scientific domain. Using various tools resident in the system, students would have access to expert knowledge resources, data collection tools, concept mapping tools, statistical analysis tools, and a publishing tool.

This article built a framework for understanding the rationale for CPSC 679, and the course objectives, which are to have students read and assimilate related literature, participate in scientific inquiry, and enter into the controversy of scientific research and understanding. Using the proposed ICAI design, the students in CPSC 679 can compare and contrast the objectives identified by the authors, with the IT tools we are currently using in this course (for concept mapping and knowledge elicitation), and see how they relate to the proposed system. A difference between the proposed ICAI design, and the present course, is that the IT tools we are using are separate, rather than part of an integrated system. In addition, rather than accessing online advice and expert resources, the course instructors are available for expert personal interaction.

The present authors promote the application of scientific skills learned and valued in the science curriculum. The primary instructional objective for students using the ICAI system is to take an active role in contributing to the scientific controversy, rather than just examining somebody elses analysis of the constroversy. In relation to CPSC 679, I see the progression of the course to include examining recent literature on the controversy, as well as applying skills learned and valued in the course, in order to achieve the primary objective, that of contributing to the controversy of expert knowledge, and different conceptual structures of a particular domain.

This article presents several figures that are great examples of concept maps, including sandwich maps with micro- and macro- level processes. The examples of concept maps in the article can be used as a model for constructing our own concept maps to describe our CPSC 679 projects, domain of inquiry, and expert conceptual structures.

At the conclusion of this article, the authors present four main points: 1) a major goal of their project is to use computers to make school activity more authentic and collaborative, 2) the ICAI system will be an argument and query support tool for an analysis of both sides of an argument, 3) the authors approach focuses on argument and controversy as a force for directing scientific inquiry, and relating results to the ongoing controversy, and 4) students will be supported and guided as they flesh out the chain of reasoning that underlies the coherence relations of evidence and hypothesis.

The rationale for the proposed design of the ICAI system is presented in three main parts: 1) student understanding and contribution to existing scientific debate in motivating data collection, 2) informal, collaborative, dialogical argumentation as well as competitive individual research and formal publications, and 3) the deepening knowledge of one problem area, rather than a superficial coverage of many areas.

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