Moving Data Based Inquiry Learning to the Internet


William Prothero and Gregory Kelly, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Summary of our publications on our studies of student writing in Oceanography

Takao, A. Y., & Kelly, G. J. (2003). Assessment of evidence in university students' scientific writing. Science & Education. 12, 341-363.

 Kelly, G. J., & Bazerman, C. (2003). How students argue scientific claims: A rhetorical-semantic analysis. Applied Linguistics, 24(1), 28-55.

 Kelly, G. J., Bazerman, C., Skukauskaite, A., & Prothero, W. (2002). Rhetorical features of student science writing in introductory university oceanography. Proceedings of the Ontological, Epistemological, Linguistic and Pedagogical Considerations of Language and Science Literacy: Empowering Research and Informing Instruction conference, Dunsmuir Lodge, University of Victoria, September 12-15, 2002.

 Kelly, G. J., & Takao, A. (2002). Epistemic levels in argument: An analysis of university oceanography students' use of evidence in writing. Science Education, 86, 314-342.

Takao, A. Y., Prothero, W., & Kelly, G. J. (2002). Applying argumentation analysis to assess the quality of university oceanography students' scientific writing. Journal of Geoscience Education, 50(1), 40-48.

Kelly, G. J., Chen, C., & Prothero, W. (2000). The epistemological framing of a discipline: Writing science in university oceanography. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 691-718.

 This text is taken directly from the Kelly and Bazerman (2003) Applied Linguistics paper:

       Earlier studies of previous iterations of this course in which the first author of this study participated have examined the framing of oceanography through instruction by the course professor and teaching assistants, the formulation of written scientific arguments by the students, and interviews with instructors and students concerning the assessment of evidence in student writing (Kelly, Chen, & Prothero, 2000; Kelly & Takao, in press; Takao & Kelly, 2001). The first study ethnographically examined the social practices constructed by the course participants, both students and teachers (Kelly, Chen, & Prothero, 2000). Data collected included videotaped records of lectures and laboratory sessions, artifacts produced by the course participants, and informal interviews with the course professor and graduate student instructors. The analysis of spoken and written discourse identified ways teachers and students came to define particular views of disciplinary knowledge through the everyday practices associated with teaching and learning oceanography. More specifically, results show that through discussions centered on writing in science, the course participants considered the socially constructed nature of science (e.g., issues of funding, audience, economic and political ramifications); the role of expertise (e.g., considering speakers' roles in framing arguments); the uses of evidence (e.g., supporting conclusions with an evidential base); and the importance of responsibility (e.g., citizens' role in the use and understanding of scientific knowledge). Discourse analysis of the discussions of these issues by the course teachers and students revealed two thematic stances toward scientific writing: (a) Writing in science was presented as a situated practice that required an understanding of the reasons, uses, and limitations of written knowledge. (b) What counts as writing in science was presented as being shaped by a community's procedures, practices, and norms. Thus, while this study identified some of the social practices associated with presenting ways of writing in science, and thus ways inquiry was framed in the discipline of oceanography, there remained questions about the students' perspective on such issues and the students' appropriation of the presented practices in their own writing.

        The second study introduced an initial analytic to assess the university oceanography students' use of evidence in writing (Kelly & Takao, in press). Drawing from rhetorical studies of science writing and studies of argumentation in science education, a model for assessing students' arguments was used to analyze the relative epistemic status of propositions in students' written texts. Each student's use of statements of varying epistemic level was compared with wholistic assessments of the writing by the professor and the teaching assistants. Results were then compared across the 24 students' papers analyzed. Argumentation analysis focusing on the epistemic level of claims identified features of students' appropriation of scientific discourse, but left unanswered key questions concerning the inference logic and reasoning chains in the formulation of scientific argument. Thus, new methodological procedures are required for further specification of student engagement in scientific reasoning through writing in this genre -- procedures we elaborate in the current study.

        A third study examined differences in how populations with different geological knowledge assessed evidence in student writing. This study used clinical interviews with course instructors (professor and graduate student teaching assistants), oceanography students, and a sample of undergraduate students not enrolled in the course, in order to assess the writing of a high scoring paper and a low scoring paper from a previous academic year. Through these interviews Takao and Kelly (in review) found that while all three populations were able to recognize differences between the two papers, their reasoning for such differences were rather ambiguous. Only the course professor could articulate the key differences in the argumentation structure for the student high scoring and low scoring papers, particularly concerning the use and relationship of statements of different epistemic levels.  The other interviewees (i.e., graduate student instructors, oceanography students, and non-science undergraduates) showed little difference in articulating reasons for variation in quality of science writing and were not able to identify key features leading to success.  This suggested a need for greater clarification in the textual features of quality student writing. To demystify these textual features we propose new methodological procedures for analysis in the current study to consider the rhetorical moves and lexical cohesion, in addition to variations in the epistemic level of claims in argument.