Investigation of a reflective pedagogy to encourage pre-service physics teachers to explore argumentation as an aid to conceptual understanding

Greg Lancaster, Rebecca Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

An emerging focus of recent science education research advocates the
benefits of using argumentation as an approach in which teachers can better engage students in a more authentic experience of the epistemic work of scientists (Bricker and Bell, 2008). Logical argument and critical thinking are considered essential skills for an effective and successful undertaking of scientific inquiry and analysis. Early research suggests the practise of encouraging students to engage in scientific discourse in the classroom (Kuhn, 2010) can provide rich experiences for students and teachers to hone their cognitive abilities. This paper explores the use of critical ‘discussion problems’ purposefully designed for pre-service physics teachers to investigate their own alternative conceptual understandings of key physics ideas. It also discusses how these problems are then used to generate classroom discourse which focuses on the importance of developing effective pedagogical content knowledge (See Shulman, 1986 for a detailed explanation of pedagogical content knowledge) rather than just mastery of scientific content and its mathematical applications. Further, the paper will detail a preliminary study in which pre-service physics teachers were introduced to a number of discussion problems via an online learning environment and asked to first consider the problem and post a solution in isolation from their peers. A considerable challenge was persuading the pre-service teachers to resist the common practice of “Googling the answer” via the internet before posting their solution attempt. Although most students initially appeared to believe that posting “the correct” answer was the main task objective, the vast majority eventually came to realise that discussing the range of unresearched solutions was much more beneficial for their conceptual understanding and professional practice. Over time, this approach generally encouraged students to post original ideas and to be less influenced by the arguments or analysis of other students. Following the completion of the online posts, the range of ideas included in the postings were then explored during a face to face workshop where the ideas were debated and frequently defended
and the implications for pedagogy and their students learning discussed. The initial feedback from the pre-service teachers during this preliminary study is encouraging and suggests there is merit in exploring the benefits of argumentation for pre-service teachers and their students in a subsequent expanded study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalIl Nuovo Cimento C
Volume38
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2016

Keywords

  • argumentation
  • physics pedagogy
  • conceptual understanding

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