This discussion software scores principles that have been created by students to describe or explain the data they have gathered in order to describe the thermodynamics of everyday objects and then uses this information to sort students into discussion forums with students who have created different principles. This enables student ideas to “bump up” against each other to facilitate discussion by seeding each discussion with multiple perspectives. While a teacher could create discussion groups of different perspectives in a class, the time issues would tend to be constraining. The technology streamlines and automates that process. Also, the software enables pairs of students to have their subsequent discussions electronically and to take as much time as they want to analyze a comment and draft a response, something not feasible in a traditional classroom set-up.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
To establish and encourage a healthy debate among students, students with different perspectives on a problem are deliberately grouped.
Context of Use:
This feature is part of a TELS project called Thermodynamics: Probing Your Surroundings (#16933). In order for the feature to be activated, multiple students must first have created principles about thermodynamics with the Principle Maker.
The data that we have gathered from classroom indicates that sorting students into online discussion groups with other students who created different principles seems to be an effective way to support and promote dialogic argumentation. Especially when compared to the low levels of argumentation that typically take place within classrooms. This approach results in high quality discussions as defined by the proportion of discourse devoted to proposing, supporting, evaluating, critiquing, and refining ideas.
Clark, D., B. and Sampson, V. (submitted). Characteristics of students’ argumentation practices when supported by personally-seeded discussions. Journal of the Learning Sciences.
Clark, D., B. and Sampson, V. (in press). Personally-seeded discussions to scaffold online argumentation. International Journal of Science Education.