Using Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) with HHMI BioInteractive Resources
I try to ensure that my classroom is a safe place where students can take risks and learn about things that are purposeful and meaningful. I don’t want to reinforce the misconception that science is something that other people do. Rather, I want my students to see themselves as scientific thinkers and to incorporate scientific thinking into their own identities.
I teach AP® Environmental Science, a course that engages students with real-life environmental problems and challenges them to evaluate viable solutions. One of my goals in this course is to incorporate as many authentic scientific inquiry activities as possible, allowing students’ classroom efforts to better mirror the work of actual scientists. HHMI BioInteractive resources support the ecology unit of my course in a substantial way, providing inquiry-based learning experiences that directly target content goals.
During such inquiry-based activities, students can try on those science identities and see how they fit. While my students may not all grow up to be professional scientists, they still need to be scientifically literate citizens who can make informed decisions.
Several times each year, I like to expand my normal inquiry-based labs with the use of the Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) instructional approach. Argument-driven inquiry is a great way to move students through the entire scientific inquiry process toward the generation of a well-crafted scientific argument. According to the ADI website, this instructional strategy consists of eight stages:
- Identify the task and the guiding question
- Design a method and collect data
- Develop an initial argument
- Argumentation session
- Explicit and reflective discussion
- Write an investigative report
- Double-blind group peer review
- Revise and submit the report
What I like most about ADI is its focus on language and the importance of students working toward crafting written arguments that clearly demonstrate what they have learned from the lab.
To accomplish this, ADI includes several key moments of peer-review, which focus students’ attention on how well they can communicate their scientific findings and understandings. These peer-feedback moments almost serve as cognitive speed bumps, slowing down the lab and providing some very important reflection time for students to really chew on what they are doing and learning.
However, as we all know, classroom time is limited, and I obviously don’t engage students in full ADI experiences during every lab activity. This past year, we did ADI with three different HHMI BioInteractive resources: Coral Bleaching Activity, Niche Partitioning & DNA Metabarcoding Click & Learn, and Rock Pocket Mouse Activity.
While ADI is not explicitly built into these resources, I have found them to be easily modified so that students’ engagement with the phenomena and their data analysis can dovetail nicely into the subsequent ADI stages. As an example, I’ll talk a little about how I used ADI in conjunction with the Niche Partitioning & DNA Metabarcoding Click & Learn.
The first two ADI stages of identifying the scientific question and collecting data are directly accomplished within the online activity. The lead scientist, Dr. Pringle, first presents students with the guiding question of exactly how large mammalian herbivores on the African savanna partition their niches to successfully coexist. Students then collect data, using methods that mirror Dr. Pringle’s actual work, to identify possible mechanisms of niche partitioning.
In my version of ADI stages 3 and 4, student groups use small whiteboards at their lab stations to craft their initial arguments in a format similar to CER (claim, evidence, reasoning) (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012). Once complete, we begin the gallery walk during which students walk around the classroom, providing constructive feedback on each other’s initial arguments. One or two students from each group remain at their original lab stations, with their CER drafts on their whiteboard. The other members of the group walk around the room (usually spending 3-4 minutes at each lab station), discussing and critiquing the writing and scientific explanations of their peers.
I typically don’t have enough time during one class period to have each group visit every other group; however, I make sure that each team has received at least three peer-review visits. Having to explain and defend their ideas and words multiple times in quick succession is a very powerful learning moment for the students. That said, one of the most challenging aspects of ADI is helping students to understand the mechanics and benefits of constructive feedback. For instance, I constantly remind my students that they are critiquing ideas and words, not each other as people.
At the end of the gallery walk, we hold a general reflection meeting during which we discuss any common themes, errors, misconceptions, powerful phrases, ah-ha moments, etc. (ADI stage 5). For the Niche Partitioning resource, this meeting is a key time to discuss the tentative nature of scientific knowledge. Students need to be aware of how their scientific arguments evolved and became more robust as they transitioned from making observations with binoculars in the field to collecting data from the DNA metabarcoding.
The assessment is for the students to then write up their individual lab reports (ADI stage 6) and submit them for the double-blind peer review session during the next class period (ADI stage 7). The ADI group has a YouTube channel with a variety of tips and suggestions for making this step an efficient work time.
After making additional edits based on the peer-review session, students then submit a final lab report the following class period (ADI stage 8). Overall, I have noticed that my students’ written reports from ADI-inspired labs are more succinct and better-developed, and the scientific writing is stronger.
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Scott Sowell is entering his 23rd year in education, currently teaching AP® Environmental Science and Senior Research at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School in Jacksonville, FL. When not in the classroom, he loves spending time in Florida’s many state parks and at the baseball stadium rooting for his minor league baseball team, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp!
If you're interested in using BioInteractive resources to structure an entire course, check out this article from Northwestern Connecticut Community College professor Tara Jo Holmberg in which outlines how she sequences her ecology course using BioInteractive resources.
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