Is that a fair experiment?” “Can the data be interpreted in another way?” “Is this enough evidence to support the claim?” Argument is a critical part of scientific discovery, and these are just three of the questions that scientific peers regularly ask. But meaningful arguments like these rarely trickle down to science classrooms. Eve Manz wants to change that.
“I deeply believe that students develop a better understanding of scientific ideas when they’ve been given a chance to think about them, talk about them, and argue with each other about them,” says Manz.
Engaging students in lively scientific arguments is something Manz, a School of Education assistant professor, enjoyed doing 12 years ago as a third grade teacher, and it’s now the focus of her scholarly research. One of several recent papers she’s published on the topic won the Review of Research Award from the American Educational Research Association last year. Manz’s research explores ways that K–12 teachers can create classroom environments in which students argue meaningfully with one another—actually trying to convince classmates of their points of view, rather than merely going through the motions of an argument to meet a class requirement. Her work shows that introducing complexity and uncertainty into class projects can help, rather than hinder, young students’ scientific learning, in part because it gives them something interesting to argue about.
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