Published on: July 2, 2019
Note: The Science Ambassador Blog will showcase articles by our NSSTA Science Ambassadors who attended the 2018 Reno NSTA Conference. The following blog is by Region 1 Science Ambassador, Kimberly Clayton.
Argument Driven Inquiry in Middle School
By Kimberly Clayton
Back in October 2019, the Nevada State Science Teacher Association (NSSTA) allowed me the opportunity to attend the regional National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) conference in Reno, NV. During this opportunity, I was able to attend many sessions that had to deal with multiple learning opportunities all based around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). During this conference I took 3 sessions on Argument Driven Inquiry (ADI).
Previously, before this regional conference, I had purchased three Argument Driven Inquiry teacher addition books from the NSTA Press. With my current teaching performance expectations being spiraled, I purchased
Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10,
Argument-Driven Inquiry in Physical Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–8 and
Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–8.
I spent some of my own time reading and researching how to teach these great ideas. I had many conversations with other teachers about how to use the Argument Driven Inquiry information in my own classroom. It was not until I attended the regional conference in Reno, that I was able to unlock the full abilities of how to use these wonderful Argument Driven Inquiry books in my classroom.
Before the conference, I was aware of some free sheets to accompany the Argument Driven Inquiry labs but wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I knew that these Argument Driven Inquiries were written with student engagement in mind but did not quite know how to release the full potential of student engagement. I knew that they were meant to be student led and student taught but I did not know how to get my students to the ability of being able to complete these in their groups. During the 2017/2018 school year I did try to implement some Argument Driven Inquiry labs in my classroom but do not feel that they meet the full potential of what it was meant to be.
This is where the sessions at the regional NSTA conference came into play. As mentioned earlier, I was able to attend three sessions on Argument Driven Inquiry. The presenter brought in many examples of his students work. These examples of student work were far beyond anything that my students were creating. After about 20 minutes of his presentation, the presenter shared that these work examples were from his 3rd grade classroom. I remember sitting in my chair shocked that these 3rd grade students were producing work beyond the capabilities of my 8th grade students. This is when my interest really peaked, and I knew I needed more help to make this work in my classroom. During the presenter’s sessions, he shared how to introduce these Argument Driven Inquiry labs, what to do next, and how to finish these labs.
The first and biggest point that he made was that the students have to see the relevance and importance of the beginning articles in order for any of these labs to be worthwhile. I was sitting in these sessions thinking about how I could make my students interested in reading these articles. I was thinking about how my students complain and groan when they have to read a 2-3 sentence question. Trying to get my students to read a whole paragraph or more, forget it, this task will not happen! Then an idea I had seen on Instagram from another teacher came to mind, blacklight reading.
Blacklight reading is a process where students read through an article and highlight what they believe is the main idea of each paragraph. Then, once everyone is done reading, the students work in groups to share their main ideas and create a summary of the article. However, when the students are working in their groups and writing their summaries, they are not working in normal classroom lights, but working under blacklights. The highlighted parts of their articles and their summaries are then glowing, creating a fun and engaging environment. I figured this black light reading may work and would try it when I got back to my classroom.
The next part that the presenter emphasized was important was having the groups of students create/write their own investigations. For this part, he shared the free resources from https://argumentdriveninquiry.com/ but also showed us, as teachers, how to use these materials in the classroom. He showed us how the suggested questions found in each lab would be useful to help guide the students who were stuck on writing part of their investigation proposal. He walked us as teachers through how to use these pages and resources to have our students research, write, and answer their own investigations, based on the phenomenon that is given at the beginning of each lab.
The last part that the presenter stated as being an important part of the Argument Driven Inquiry process was the double-blind peer review. This is process where students write their final report of their investigation and then are peer reviewed twice, allowed to make the suggested changes, and then submit their final report. He stated this process was important because it allowed students to see other students’ ideas/thoughts and then add these ideas or thoughts to their own reports. However, this idea of exchanging thoughts/ideas is also carried out during the argument sessions. All the way through the argument session and double-blind peer review, students are collaborating in sharing their results and ideas. The best thing that I love about these parts though is the students are having to justify their claims and show their evidence that they gather for each lab.
Due to the ability to attend the regional NSTA Reno conference in October 2018, thanks to NSSTA, my classes have largely benefited from my experience in learning about Argument Driven Inquiry. I have been able to challenge and have student led learning more in my classroom. My students were anxious and enjoyed writing and teaching each other, allowing me the teacher to play more of facilitator role, which allowed my students to grow and gain a knowledge further than I expected them to grow in one given school year.