Argument-driven inquiry to promote the understanding of important concepts & practices in biology.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Information-seeking behavior (Management)
Science experiments (Management)
Critical thinking (Study and teaching)
Learning strategies (Management)
Science literacy (Management)
Authors: Sampson, Victor
Gleim, Leeanne
Pub Date: 10/01/2009
Publication: Name: The American Biology Teacher Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 National Association of Biology Teachers ISSN: 0002-7685
Issue: Date: Oct, 2009 Source Volume: 71 Source Issue: 8
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Canadian Subject Form: Information-seeking behaviour Computer Subject: Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 246348898

Inquiry is an integral part of the teaching and learning of science. However, many science teachers are unsure of how to promote and support inquiry in the classroom or how to design lessons that engage students in inquiry in a way that improves students' understanding of important concepts and practices in biology. In this article we describe an instructional model called Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) that enables biology teachers to integrate inquiry-based laboratory experiences in biology with other school subjects, such as reading and writing, in a way that promotes and supports learning. It also provides biology teachers with a way to help students develop important habits of mind and critical thinking skills by emphasizing the important role argumentation plays in the generation and validation of scientific knowledge (Driver, Newton & Osborne, 2000; Duschl & Osborne, 2002).

This model is designed to frame the goal of scientific inquiry as an effort to develop an argument that provides and supports an explanation for a research question. As part of this effort, students are required to design and implement their own investigations, gather and analyze data, communicate and justify their ideas with others during interactive argumentation sessions, write investigation reports to share and document their work, and engage in peer-review. This process provides students with an opportunity to take ownership of their learning and can help make laboratory work more educative for students. Overall, this type of instructional model can be a useful pedagogical approach for science teachers interested in integrating science with other school subjects or who want to help students develop a better understanding of the types of practices that make science different from other ways of knowing.

* Why Is Integrating Science With Other School Subjects Important?

In America's Lab Report: Investigations in High School Sciences (2005), the National Research Council (NRC) makes several suggestions for how laboratory experiences can be made more effective. The NRC defined laboratory experiences in this report as "opportunities for students to interact directly with the material world (or with data drawn from the material world), using tools, data collection techniques, models, and theories of science" (p. 31) and suggests these experiences need to be inquiry-based and integrated with other activities such as reading, writing, and discussions in order to enhance student achievement. The NRC committee proposed the phrase "integrated instructional units" to describe this type of instruction (p. 82). It also stresses the importance of constructing or critiquing arguments and embedding diagnostic or formative assessment into the instruction sequence that can be used to gauge students' developing understanding and to promote critical reflection.

Although more research is needed in this area, current studies indicate that integrated instructional units are more effective than traditional laboratory experiences at enhancing student mastery of subject area, development of scientific reasoning, helping students learn to read and write, and for cultivating interest in science (NRC, 2005, 2007). It also appears that integrated instruction is an effective way to help more and a wider diversity of students progress toward these goals (NRC, 2005). However, efforts to promote this type of instruction inside science classrooms will require the development of new and effective instructional models, such as Argument-Driven Inquiry, that biology teachers can use to design new laboratory experiences or to adapt existing lab activities.

* The Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) Instructional Model

We have developed the ADI instructional model to function as a short integrated instructional unit and to encourage students to engage in interdisciplinary work in a way that promotes their understanding of important concepts and practices in biology. This model, as noted earlier, is designed to:

* frame the goal of classroom activity as an effort to develop, understand, or evaluate a scientific explanation for natural phenomena or a solution to a problem.

* engage students in meaningful inquiry using methods of their own design and to help students learn how to design better investigations.

* encourage individuals to learn how to generate an argument that articulates and justifies an explanation for a research question as part of the inquiry process.

* provide opportunities for students to learn how to propose, support, evaluate, and revise ideas through discussion and writing in a more productive manner.

* create a classroom community that values evidence and critical thinking.

* encourage students to take control of their own learning by helping them learn how to define goals and monitor their progress in achieving them based on scientific criteria.

The current iteration of the ADI instructional model consists of the following steps:

* the identification of a task by the classroom teacher that creates a desire for the students to make sense of a phenomenon or to resolve a problem

* a laboratory-based experience where small groups of students have an opportunity to generate or analyze data using appropriate tools

* the production of a tentative argument that articulates and justifies an explanation on a medium that can be seen by others

* an argumentation session where groups share their arguments and then critique and refine their explanations

* a written investigation report generated by individual students that explains the goal of the investigation, the method used, and provides a well-reasoned argument

* a double-blind peer review of these reports to ensure quality and to generate valuable feedback for the individual authors

* the subsequent revision of the report based on the results of the peer-review

* an explicit and reflective discussion about the inquiry.

* An Example Lesson

To illustrate how to use the ADI instructional model, we will describe an ADI lesson that we developed for a tenth grade biology class. This example lesson was designed to help students understand the molecular basis of heredity (NSES Content Standard B, grades 9-12), comprehend the nature of science (NSES Content Standard G, grades 9-12), and improve their scientific inquiry abilities (1) (NSES Content Standard A, grades 9-12). It was also designed to help students improve their writing and verbal communication skills, their understanding of the writing process, and their ability to think in a critical manner. These skills and abilities, we argue, play an important role in biology and should not be neglected in the science classroom. In this overview, we will describe the purpose of each step of the instructional model, the nature of classroom activity during each step, and how to support students as they work.

Step #1. The Identification of the Task

In this stage of the instructional model, the teacher introduces the major topic to be studied and initiates the learning sequence. Similar to other instructional models, such as the Science Writing Heuristic (Wallace, Hand & Yang, 2005) or the 5E Learning Cycle (Bybee et al., 2006), this step in the model is designed to capture the students' attention and interest. The teacher also needs to make connections between past and present learning experiences (i.e., what students already know and what they need to find out) and to highlight upcoming activities. At the end of this stage, which takes about 15 minutes of class time, the students should be mentally engaged in the topic and should begin to think about how it relates to their previous experiences in the class or to past investigations. To accomplish this, we recommend using a handout that includes a brief introduction and a researchable question to answer, a problem to solve, or task to complete. This handout can also include other important information that students can use during the second step of the instructional model (see below). Figure 1 includes the introduction and the problem we gave the students at the beginning of the example lesson.

Step #2. The Generation of Data

During the second step of the model, the students work in a collaborative group in order to develop and implement a method to address the problem. The intention of this step is to provide students with an opportunity to interact directly with the material world (or with data drawn from the material world) using appropriate tools and data collection techniques. In this case, students were supplied with simulated blood samples from each individual, blood typing slides, and anti-serums. The students took about 55 minutes of class time to develop and implement a method to identify the blood type of each individual.

It is important to note, however, that this type of practical work can be challenging for students. We therefore recommend that the classroom teacher provide the students with a list of materials that can be used during the investigation and some hints to help get them started. We have found that this is a useful way to steer students in a productive direction and to support them as they design their investigations. We include this information in the handout supplied to the students at the beginning of the investigation under the headings "Materials Available" and "Getting Started." We also have students write out an investigation proposal that describes the method they intend to use, particularly if the investigation is complex or requires the use of potentially hazardous chemicals. The teacher can then quickly check a group's proposal to ensure that the student-designed investigations will be fruitful and safe.

It is critical for the classroom teacher to circulate from group to group to act as a resource person for the students as they work. It is also important for teachers to ensure that students think about what they are doing and why. To do this, teachers can ask probing questions such as: How do you know that your data is reliable? What else do you need to figure out? or Do you have enough data to support your ideas? Teachers can then offer helpful suggestions or point students in new directions. It is important to remember that students ,:,,ill struggle with this type of work at the beginning of the year but, over time and with enough experience and educative feedback, students improve their skills. This is an important principle underlying the design of this instructional model. Students cannot be expected to improve their inquiry skills by simply following directions or procedures provided to them; instead, students need opportunities to try, fail, and then learn from their mistakes. In other words, students need to engage in scientific inquiry time and time again so they have an opportunity to learn through experience, feedback, and reflection.

Step #3. The Production of a Tentative Argument

The next stage of the instructional model calls for students to construct an argument that consists of an explanation, evidence, and reasoning in a selected medium, such as a large whiteboard, that can be shared with others (see Figure 2). The explanation component of the argument serves as an answer to the research question that guides the investigation. Depending on the question guiding the students' investigation, this explanation can offer a solution to a problem (e.g., the unknown powder is sodium chloride), articulate a descriptive relationship (e.g., as the temperature of a gas increases, so does the volume), or provide a causal mechanism. The evidence component of the argument includes measurements or observations to support the validity or the legitimacy of the explanation. This evidence can take a number of forms ranging from traditional numerical data (e.g., mass, time, or temperature) to observations (e.g., it changed color, a gas evolved). However, in order for this information to be considered evidence, it should show (a) a trend over time (b) a difference between groups, or (c) a relationship between variables. The reasoning component of the argument includes a rationalization that illustrates how the evidence supports the claim and that the evidence provided is justifiable evidence. In this lesson, the students produced an argument that included the father of each child (their explanation), the evidence they were using to support their ideas (results of the blood tests), and their reasoning (people with type A blood can have the genotype AA or AO).

This step of the model is designed to focus students' attention on the importance of argument (i.e., an attempt to establish or validate a conclusion on the basis of reasons) in science. In other words, students need to understand that science is not dogmatic and scientists must be able to support an explanation with appropriate evidence and reasoning. It also helps students learn how to determine if available data is relevant, sufficient, and convincing enough to support their claims. More importantly, this step makes students' ideas, evidence, and reasoning visible to each other, which, in turn, enables students to evaluate competing ideas and weed out conjectures or conclusions that are inaccurate or do not fit with the available data. This process helps students make sense of the phenomena under investigation or develop a tentative solution to a problem. It takes the students about 20 minutes to create a tentative argument on a whiteboard. The first three steps of this lesson can therefore be completed in two 50-minute class periods.


Step #4. The Interactive Argumentation Session

We use the term argumentation session to describe the forth step in the ADI instructional model. In this step, the students are given an opportunity to propose, support, critique, and refine their conclusions, explanations, or conjectures in a whole class or small group format (see Figure 3). This step is included in the model because research indicates that students learn more when they are exposed to the ideas of others, respond to the questions and challenges of other students, articulate more substantial warrants for their views, and evaluate the merits of competing ideas (Linn & Eylon, 2006; National Research Council, 2007). In other words, argumentation sessions are designed to create a need for students to take a critical look at the product (the argument), process (the method), and the context (the theoretical foundation) of the inquiry. They also provide teachers with an opportunity to assess student progress or thinking and to encourage students to think about issues that may have been overlooked or ignored.

The argumentation sessions promote and support learning by taking advantage of the variation in student ideas found within in a classroom and by helping groups negotiate and adopt more appropriate criteria for judging inferences, conjectures, explanations, or other claims in science. This is important because current research indicates that students often have a repertoire of ideas about a given phenomenon that includes "ideas that are sound, contradictory, confused, idiosyncratic, arbitrary, and based on flimsy evidence" and that "most students lack criteria for distinguishing between these ideas" (Linn & Eylon, 2006, p. 8). Similarly, Kuhn and Reiser (2005) and Sampson and Clark (2008) suggest that students tend to rely on inappropriate criteria such as plausibility or the teacher's authority to determine which ideas to accept or reject during discussions and debates. Engaging students in an argumentation session can help them learn to use more appropriate and rigorous scientific criteria (such as how well a conclusion fits with the available evidence, the predictive power of an explanation, or how consistent a conjecture is with other scientific theories or laws) to distinguish between alternative ideas. It also gives students an opportunity to refine and improve their initial explanations or tentative solutions.

The argumentation session enables students to see how disagreements about data interpretation can arise when people hold different assumptions and expectations prior to engaging in investigation about the same phenomenon. Such experiences help students to understand that a scientist's beliefs, theoretical commitments, training, and expectations affect the problems that the scientist investigates, how the scientist conducts his/her investigation, and how the scientist interprets his/her observations. Students can also gain a better understanding of the social construction of scientific knowledge through this process. Students quickly learn that success and confidence in one's conclusions depends on sharing and critiquing methods, data, and interpretations. Finally, this type of activity helps students understand the theory-laden nature of science. When students use important scientific principles (such as Mendel's laws of segregation of characteristics and independent assortment, in this case) to solve problems or to make sense of what they observe, they can begin to see the important role that scientific theories and laws play in scientific inquiry. Although often ignored in the classroom, these aspects of science are especially important to the development of a scientific literate population because many political and moral dilemmas posed by contemporary science require an understanding not only of the content but also the processes and practices of science (Driver, Newton & Osborne, 2000; Duschl & Osborne, 2002).

However, it is important to note that supporting and promoting this type of interaction between students inside the classroom can be difficult because this type of activity is foreign to most students. This is one reason why the ADI model requires students to generate their arguments on a medium that can be seen by others (such as a whiteboard). This helps students to focus their attention on evaluating evidence and reasoning rather than attacking the source of the ideas. We also recommend that teachers use a "round robin" format rather than a whole class presentation format. In a round-robin format, one member of the group remains at the workstation to share and discuss the group's ideas with other students. The rest of the group members go to a different workstation to listen to and critique the arguments developed by their classmates one group at a time. After several rounds, the students return to their original groups to modify their explanation or solution based on the ideas of the other groups or, if necessary, return to lab to gather more data. This type of format ensures that all ideas are heard and more students are actively involved in the process. It can also help lessen the intimidation factor of an argumentation session for students. This step of the lesson requires about 50 minutes of class time.

Step #5. The Creation of a Written Investigation Report

Argument-Driven Inquiry, as noted earlier, is designed to function as a short integrated instructional unit. This is due, in large part, to the important role writing plays in this instructional model. We chose to integrate opportunities for students to write into ADI because writing is an important part of doing science. For example, scientists must be able to share the results of their own research through writing (Saul, 2004). Scientists must also be able to read and understand the writing of others as well as to evaluate its worth. In order for students to be able to do this, they need to learn how to write in a manner that reflects the standards of the scientific community (Shanahan, 2004). In addition to learning how to write in science, requiring students to write can also help students make sense of the topic and to be able to articulate their thinking in a clear and concise manner. This process tends to encourage metacognition and often improves student understanding of the content (Wallace, Hand & Prain, 2004). As a result, an opportunity to write can actually help students learn and retain important concepts or principles in science (Indrisano & Paratore, 2005).

In order to encourage students to learn how to write in science and to write to learn about science, we recommend a non-traditional lab report format that is more persuasive than expository in nature. The change to a more persuasive format is designed to encourage students to think about what they know', how they know it, and why they believe it over alternatives. To do this, we suggest that students produce an "investigation report" that answers three basic questions: What were you trying to do and why? What did you do and why? What is your argument? The responses to these questions are written as a two-page manuscript that includes the data the students gathered and analyzed as evidence. Students should be encouraged to organize this information into tables or graphs that they can embed into the text. These three questions target the same information found in more traditional lab reports to which biology teachers are accustomed, but are designed to elicit student awareness of the content, context, and the audience as they write.

An example of the initial draft of an investigation report that a student submitted at the end of this lesson is provided in the Appendix. The student in this example divided her report into three sections and devoted one section to each question. She also organized the data she gathered during her investigation into a table that made the results of her tests explicit. She then used this evidence, along with appropriate and valid reasoning, to support her conclusion. She highlighted the limitations of her method as part of her argument. This is an important component of scientific work and is often difficult for students to understand. We recommend that this step of the instructional model be completed as a homework assignment to help save instructional time. This component of the Argument-Driven Inquiry instructional model could also be completed in an English class. This would help to promote and support integration across subject areas. We believe that this is important because students rarely have an opportunity to write or read about science in the context of other courses.

Step #6. The Double-Blind Peer Review

The next stage of this instructional model is a double-blind peer review,. Once students complete their investigation reports, they submit three typed copies without any identifying information to the classroom teacher. The teacher then randomly distributes three or four sets of reports (i.e., the reports written by three or four different students) to each lab group along with a peer review sheet for each set of reports. The peer review sheet includes specific criteria (see Figure 4) to be used to evaluate the quality of an investigation report and space to provide feedback to the author. The review criteria include questions such as: Did the author use appropriate terms to describe the nature of the investigation (e.g., experiment, systematic observation, interpretation of an existing data set)? Did the author use genuine evidence to support his/her explanation? Is the author's reasoning sufficient and appropriate? The lab groups review each report as a team and then decide if it can be accepted as is or if it needs to be revised based on the criteria included on the peer review sheet. Groups are also required to provide explicit feedback to the author about what needs to be done in order to improve the quality of the report (and the writing) as part of the review. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes of class time for each group to complete the review of the three or four different reports.

This step of the instructional model provides students with the educative feedback that they need to improve, encourages them to develop and use appropriate standards for "what counts" as quality, and helps them be more metacognitive as they work. It is also designed to create a community of learners who value evidence and critical thinking inside the classroom. This is accomplished by creating a learning environment inside the classroom where students hold each other accountable. Students, as a result, expect to discuss the validity or the acceptability of scientific claims and, over time, begin to adopt more and more rigorous criteria for supporting and evaluating them. This type of focus also gives students a chance to see both "good" and "bad" examples of scientific writing. Overall, the double-blind peer review process is intended to encourage the development of new habits of mind and to provide a mechanism that can help students improve their ability to write in science.

Step #7. The Revision Process

The reports that are accepted by the reviewers are given credit (complete) by the teacher and then returned to the authors while the reports that need revisions are returned to the authors without credit (incomplete). These authors, however, are encouraged to rewrite their reports based on the reviewers' feedback. Once completed, the revised reports (along with the original version of the report and the peer review sheet) are then resubmitted to the classroom teacher for a second evaluation. If the revised report has reached an acceptable level of quality, then the author is given full credit (complete). If the report is still unacceptable, it is returned to the author once again for a second round of revisions. The goal of this step of the model is to encourage students to improve their writing based on educative feedback without imposing a grade-related penalty. This type of approach can be a powerful way to improve student writing and understanding of the science content. It also provides students with an opportunity to engage in a writing process that involves the production, evaluation, and revision of a manuscript in the context of science.

Step #8. A Reflective Round-Table Discussion

We recommend that teachers lead an explicit and reflective discussion about the investigation after the peer review is complete. The goal of this discussion, which requires about 30 minutes of class time, is to provide a venue for students to talk about what they have learned during the investigation. For example, students can be asked to explain what they learned about the ABO blood system or patterns of inheritance. The teacher can then answer any lingering questions about the content that students might have or provide examples of how the content is relevant or useful in other contexts.

The teacher should also ask questions about the various tenets of the nature of science as part of the round-table discussion. For example, the teacher can ask how the students' work reflects the durable but tentative nature of scientific knowledge or the theory-laden nature of science. These types of conversations can help students develop a better understanding of how professional science works. The teacher can also encourage students to talk about ways that could improve the design of their investigation or the method they used by asking them to evaluate what went well and what did not. The teacher can then offer suggestions for future investigations. For example, the discussion can focus on ways to limit measurement error during empirical work or the importance of including a positive and negative control during an experiment. Our research (Sampson & Grooms, 2008) suggests that it is important for teachers to highlight these types of issues in an explicit manner and then encourage students to reflect on what they have done and how they can improve in order to promote student learning.

* Final Thoughts

This model, we argue, can help foster scientific literacy and enables science educators to blend science with other subjects in a meaningful way. To do this, the ADI instructional model integrates several different types of activities, such as reading, writing, critical discussions, and formative assessment (i.e., peer review) that have been shown through empirical research (NRC, 2006, 2007) to increase student achievement. Biology teachers can therefore use the ADI instructional model as a way to transform more traditional laboratory experiences, where students follow a set procedure and answer "analysis" questions, into a short integrated instructional unit. This type of approach has great potential and should enable more students to develop a sophisticated understanding of both the concepts under study and the process through which scientific knowledge is developed, evaluated, and refined. Furthermore, this structure affords teachers a platform to promote reading and writing across the curriculum in a way that supports the learning of biology and the learning of other school subjects.

APPENDIX. An example of an investigation report produced by a tenth grade student.



Mr. and Mrs. Jones have been married for eight years. During this time, Mrs. Jones has had three children. Recently, Mr. Jones found out that Mrs. Jones has been secretly dating another man, Mr. Smith, throughout their marriage. Mr. Jones now questions if he is truly the father of the three children. Our goal in this investigation was to determine if any of the three children are Mr. Smith's and not Mr. Jones' using a blood sample from Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, Mr. Smith, and each of the three children, and our knowledge of how different blood types are inherited.

Three different versions of a gene (alleles) are responsible for the four human blood types (A, B, AB, and O). Allele A codes for the synthesis of red blood cells that have Type A antigens on their surface. Allele B codes for the synthesis of red blood ceils that have Type B antigens on their surface. The O allele codes for red blood cells that do not have surface antigens. Alleles A and B are co-dominant and the Allele O is recessive.


In order to test a person's blood type, we used anti-serum that had high levels of anti-A or anti-B antibodies. We took two drops of each blood sample and added them to a testing plate that had two wells. We then added a drop of anti-serum A into one well and a drop of anti-serum B to the other. The anti-serum is used to identify the presence of a particular type of antigen on the surface of a blood cell. In other words, if agglutination (clumping) occurs when an anti-serum is added to a blood sample, then the antigen is present. However, if no agglutination occurs when anti-serum is added, then the antigen is absent. This simple test enabled us to identify the phenotype of each individual (Type A, B, AB, or O blood). From there, we could determine the potential genotype of each individual. For example, a person with Type A blood can have the genotype AA or AO. We then used this information to determine if it was possible for Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith to have a child with a particular phenotype. For example, if both parents have blood Type A, then their offspring's blood type can only by A or O.


This is what we observed.

Given this information, Mrs. Jones has blood Type O (OO), Mr. Jones has blood Type A (AO), Mr. Smith has blood Type AB (AB), Child 1 has blood Type B (BOY, Child 2 has blood Type O (OO) and Child 3 has blood Type A (AO). We therefore figured out that Mrs. Jones (OO) and Mr. Smith (AB) can have children with A or B blood types and that Mrs. Jones (OO) and Mr. Jones (AO) can either have children with A or O blood types. This indicates that Child 1 is Mr. Smith's because he had blood Type B, because he is the only one that could pass down a B allele. Child 2 is Mr. Jones' because blood Type O could only result from Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Child 3 could be from either man because he was blood Type A because both men are able to pass along the A allele. This uncertainty happens because we could only determine the phenotype of a person and not a person's genotype. As a result, we could identify, instances where a man could not be the biological father of a child. For example, a child born from a man with Type A blood and mother with Type O blood could not have the blood Type B. This was the case for child 3. Therefore, it is important to remember that this type of system cannot always be used to settle paternity disputes.


Bybee, R, W., Taylor, J., Gardner, A., Scotter, P., Powell, J., Westbrook, A. et al. (2006). The BSCS 5E instructional Model: Origins, Effectiveness, and Application. Colorado Springs, CO: National Institutes of Health, Office of Science Education.

Driver, R., Newton, P. & Osborne, J. (2000). Establishing the norms of scientific argumentation in classrooms. Science Education, 84(3), 287-313.

Duschl, R. A. & Osborne, J. (2002). Supporting and promoting argumentation discourse in science education. Studies in Science Education, 38, 39-72.

Indrisano, R. & Paratore, J. (Eds.). (2005). Learning To Write and Writing To Learn: Theory and Research in Practice. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Kuhn, L. & Reiser, B. (2005). Students constructing and defending evidence-based scientific explanations. Paper presented at the Annual International Conference of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Dallas, TX.

Linn, M. C. & Eylon, B.-S. (2006). Science Education: Integrating views of learning and instruction. InK Alexander & P. H. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology (pp. 511-544). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington DC: National Academy Press.

National Research Council. (2005).America's Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science. Washington DC: National Academy Press.

National Research Council. (2007). Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Sampson, V. & Clark, D. (2008). Differences in the ways more and less successful groups engage in argumentation: A case study. Paper presented at the Annual International Conference of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST). Baltimore, MD.

Sampson, V. & Grooms, J. (2008). Science as Argument-Driven Inquiry: The impact on students' conceptions of the nature of scientific inquiry. Paper presented at the Annual International Conference of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST).

Saul, E. W. (Ed.). (2004). Crossing Borders in Literacy and Science Instruction: Perspectives on Theory and Practice. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

Shanahan, C. (2004). Better textbooks, better readers and writers. In W. Saul (Ed.), Crossing Borders in Literacy and Science Instruction: Perspectives on Theory and Practice. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press,

Wallace, C., Hand, B. & Prain, V. (Eds.). (2004). Writing and Learning in the Science Classroom. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Wallace, C., Hand, B. & Yang, E.-M. (2005). The science writing heuristic: Using writing as a tool for learning in the laboratory. In W. Saul (Ed.), Crossing Borders in Literacy and Science Instruction. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

(1) Scientific inquiry abilities that were targeted in this lesson include: (a) design and conduct scientific investigation (b) formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence (c) recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models (d) communicate and defend a scientific argument.


VICTOR SAMPSON ( is Assistant Professor of Science Education, and LEEANNE GLEIM is a graduate research assistant, both in the School of Teacher Education at the Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4459.
Figure 1. The information provided at the beginning of
the example lesson.

Introduction: So far we have discussed the inheritance patterns
involving only two alleles per gene locus. However,
many genes have multiple alleles, in other words, in a given
population, more than two alleles may be present although
an individual can only have two alleles for a trait at a particular
locus. The ABO blood groups in humans are one example
of multiple alleles. The four blood types (A, B, AB, and O)
result from various combinations of three different alleles.
Allele A codes for the synthesis of red blood cells that have
the Type A antigens on their surface. Allele B codes for the
synthesis of red blood cells that have the Type B antigens on
their surface, and allele 0 codes for red blood cells that lack
surface antigens.

The Problem: Mr. and Mrs. Jones have been married for
eight years. During this time, Mrs. Jones has had three children.
Recently Mr. Jones found out that Mrs. Jones has been
secretly dating another man, Mr. Smith, throughout their
marriage. Mr. Jones now questions if he is truly the father of
the three children. Using a blood sample from Mr. Jones, Mrs.
Jones, Mr. Smith, and each of the three children, determine if
any of the three children are Mr. Smith's, and not Mr. Jones.

Figure 2. Students use whiteboards to construct a tentative
argument. This type of medium helps make their thinking
and reasoning visible.


Goal of Your Investigation

What were you trying to do?

Your Explanation

How do you explain the phenomenon
under investigation?

Group Members' Names

Your Evidence and Reasoning

How can you be sure?

          Jones    Mr. Jones   Mr. Smith   Child 1   Child 2   Child 3

Anti-A   No Clot     Clot        Clot      No Clot   No Clot    Clot
Anti-B   No Clot    No Clot      Clot       Clot     No Clot   No Clot

Figure 4. Peer review sheet used by students during the double-blind
peer review.


Criteria                                  No   Poor   Good   Excellent


Did the author introduce the phenomenon
under investigation and the problem to
be solved?

Did the author make the research
question and/or goals of the
investigation explicit?

Did the author explain why the work was
done and why this work is useful or

Explain why your group gave any
"Poor" or "No" marks in the space


Did the author describe how he/she went
about his/her work?

Did the author explain why the work was
done in this way?

Did the author use appropriate terms to
describe the nature of the
investigation (e.g., experiment,
systematic observation, interpretation
of an existing data set)?

Explain why your group gave any
"Poor" or "No" marks in the space


Did the author include a well-
articulated explanation that provides a
sufficient answer to the research
question? (It explains everything that
it should.)

Is the author's explanation coherent
and free from contradictions?

Did the author use genuine evidence
(trends over time, differences between
groups, relationships between
variables) to support the explanation?

Did the author present the evidence in
an appropriate manner (e.g., correctly
formatted diagrams, graphs, or tables)?

Does the author have enough evidence to
support the explanation? (The author
supported all of his/her ideas and used
more than one piece of evidence.)

Is the author's evidence valid
(appropriate methods were used to
gather the data) and reliable (the
author attempted to reduce error in the

Does the author's explanation fit with
all the available evidence?

Is the author's reasoning sufficient
(it explains why the evidence was used
and why it supports the explanation)
and appropriate (rational and sound)?

Is the author's explanation consistent
with what the other groups found and
what was discussed in class?

Did the author leave out inappropriate
phrases (e.g., it proves it, it's
right, it's correct, my proof is) and
use key terms correctly (e.g.,
hypothesis, prediction)?

Explain why your group gave any "Poor"
or "No" marks in the space below:


Content: Did the author express his/her
ideas clearly and provide the reader
with valuable insight?

Organization: Does the writing have a
sense of purpose and structure?

Voice: Does the reader get a sense that
someone real is there on the page?

Word Choice: Did the author choose just
the right words to make the writing
sound natural and precise?

Sentence Fluency: Did the author create
a sense of rhythm with the sentences
and a flow that is enjoyable for the

Conventions: Did the author use
appropriate grammar, spelling,
punctuation, paragraphing
and capitalization?

Explain why your group gave any "Poor"
or "No" marks in the space below:

Final Decision:    --Accept    --Revise and Resubmit
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