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Morgan B. Yarker

Yarker Consulting


Michel d. S. Mesquita

Uni Research Climate, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research


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Book Discussion: Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology

The other day, I was reading the February issue of NSTA's The Science Teacher and came across an insert previewing one of their new books Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology. I found some of the lab examples to be extremely useful, especially the addition of argument components.

As an educator who uses argument-based inquiry approaches as part of my own teaching philosophy, I am obviously an advocate for the approach. But for those who are unfamiliar with it, it can be quite difficult to incorporate effectively. Although I have not read this book in it's entirety (yet!), I wanted to highlight one component of argument (the "Argument Session") the authors used in their lab activities that could easily be incorporated by any teacher or professor currently teaching lab activities to their students.

After data collection is finished, students have an "Argument Session", which is facilitated by having each group fill out a table with the following information (p 56):

  • Guiding question
  • Our claim
  • Our evidence
  • Our justification of the evidence

Let me just point out that the students have to explicitly mention their evidence and their justification of the evidence. If your students have never done this before, they may have some trouble doing it. It is actually my experience that students will often confuse their claim with evidence and their evidence with data, so don't be too surprised when you see that happening. This is why the justification is so important and why I love this addition to traditional lab activities so much.

Most traditional lab activities don't have students explicitly state their evidence, nor generate some sort of overarching claim. But isn't that what doing science is all about? Gathering data, generating evidence from the data, and then making a claim based on the evidence. This process takes practice and a deep understanding of the nature of science, which isn't just important for future scientists, but for everyone to be able to evaluate if a claim is based on credible evidence. What better way than to actually practice making generating evidence and making claims while learning science?

So, I challenge you to include the "Argument Session" into some of your own lab activities. After some practice, I bet your students will make huge improvements in their understanding of science and their ability to think critically about scientific claims.

I am excited to read this book in its entirety!