Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Science Education

First Advisor

Brian M. Hand


The purpose of this study was to characterize ways in which teaching practice in classroom undergoing first semester implementation of an argument-based inquiry approach changes in whole-class discussion. Being that argument is explicitly called for in the Next Generation Science Standards and is currently a rare practice in teaching, many teachers will have to transform their teaching practice for inclusion of this feature. Most studies on Argument-Based Inquiry (ABI) agree that development of argument does not come easily and is only acquired through practice.

Few studies have examined the ways in which teaching practice changes in relation to the big idea or disciplinary core idea (NGSS), the development of dialogue, and/or the development of argument during first semester implementation of an argument-based inquiry approach. To explore these areas, this study posed three primary research questions: (1) How does a teacher in his first semester of Science Writing Heuristic professional development make use of the "big idea"?, (1a) Is the indicated big idea consistent with NGSS core concepts?, (2) How did the dialogue in whole-class discussion change during the first semester of argument-based inquiry professional development?, (3) How did the argument in whole-class discussion change during the first semester of argument-based inquiry professional development?

This semester-long study that took place in a middle school in a rural Midwestern city was grounded in interactive constructivism, and utilized a qualitative design to identify the ways in which the teacher utilized big ideas and how dialogue and argumentative dialogue developed over time. The purposefully selected teacher in this study provided a unique situation where he was in his first semester of professional development using the Science Writing Heuristic Approach to argument-based inquiry with 19 students who had two prior years' experience in ABI. Multiple sources of data were collected, including classroom video with transcripts, teacher interview, researcher field notes, student journals, teacher lesson plans from previous years, and a student questionnaire. Data analysis used a basic qualitative approach.

The results showed (1) only the first time period had a true big idea, while the other two units contained topics, (2) each semester contained a similar use for the given big idea, though its role in the class was reduced after the opening activity, (3) the types of teacher questions shifted toward students explaining their comprehension of ideas and more students were involved in discussing each idea and for more turns of talk than in earlier time periods, (4) understanding science term definitions became more prominent later in the semester, with more stating science terms occurring earlier in the semester, (5) no significant changes were seen to the use of argument or claims and evidence throughout the study.

The findings have informed theory and practice about science argumentation, the practice of whole-class dialogue, and the understanding of practice along four aspects: (1) apparent lack of understanding about big ideas and how to utilize them as the central organizing feature of a unit, (2) independent development of dialogue and argument, (3) apparent lack of understanding about the structure of argument and use of basic terminology with argument and big ideas, (4) challenges of ABI implementation. This study provides insight into the importance of prolonged and persistent professional development with ABI in teaching practice.


Argument, Dialogue, Inquiry, Middle School, Next Generation Science Standards, Professional Development


xiii, 177 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 165-177).


Copyright 2013 Brian R Pinney