Online Learning Environments, Scientific Argumentation, and 21st Century Skills

Online Learning Environments, Scientific Argumentation, and 21st Century Skills

Douglas Clark (Vanderbilt University, USA), Victor Sampson (Florida State University, USA), Karsten Stegmann (University of Munich, Germany), Miika Marttunen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland), Ingo Kollar (University of Munich, Germany), Jeroen Janssen (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), Gijsbert Erkens (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), Armin Weinberger (University of Twente, The Netherlands), Muhsin Menekse (Arizona State University, USA) and Leena Laurinen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-729-9.ch001


A workshop held at the National Academies in the United States in 2007 highlighted five broad categories of skills that appear valuable across a range of jobs for people working in modern global economies. Engaging students in scientific argumentation can support the development of these 21st century skills. Unfortunately, opportunities are rare in typical classrooms for students to learn how to engage in scientific argumentation. Over the past ten years several online environments have been developed to support students engaging with one another in scientific argumentation. This paper considers how engaging students in scientific argumentation through the activity structures and scripts in these online environments could also support the development of 21st century skills. More specifically, the paper considers how WISE Seeded Discussions, CASSIS, VCRI, and DREW can support students’ development of Adaptability, Complex Communication Skills, Non-Routine Problem-Solving Skills, Self-Management/Self-Development, and Systems Thinking.
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Why Scientific Argumentation?

Inquiry is at the heart of current efforts to help students develop scientific literacy (AAAS, 1993; NRC, 2000). True scientific literacy involves understanding how knowledge is generated, justified, and evaluated by scientists and how to use such knowledge to engage in inquiry in ways that reflect the practices of the scientific community (Driver Newton, & Osborne, 2000; Duschl & Osborne, 2002). Scientific inquiry is often described in this literature as a knowledge building process in which explanations are developed to make sense of data and then presented to a community of peers so they can be critiqued, debated, and revised (Driver et al., 2000; Duschl, 2000; Sandoval & Reiser, 2004; Vellom & Anderson, 1999). The ability to engage in scientific argumentation (i.e., the ability to examine and then either accept or reject the relationships or connections between and among the evidence and the theoretical ideas invoked in an explanation or the ability to make connections between and among evidence and theory in an argument) is therefore viewed by many as an important aspect of scientific literacy (Driver et al., 2000; Duschl & Osborne, 2002; Jimenez-Aleixandre, Rodriguez, & Duschl, 2000; Kuhn, 1993; Siegel, 1989).

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