Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Science Education

First Advisor

Hand, Brian

Second Advisor

Park, Soonhye

First Committee Member

Forbes, Cory T.

Second Committee Member

Schuh, Kathy L.

Third Committee Member

Stanier, Charles O.


The purpose of this study was to examine the patterns of dialogue that were established and emerged in one experienced fifth-grade science teacher's classroom that used the argument-based inquiry (ABI) and the ways in which these patterns of dialogue and consensus-making were used toward the establishment of a grasp of science practice. Most current studies on ABI agree that it does not come naturally and is only acquired through practice. Additionally, the quality of dialogue is also understood to be an important link in support of student learning. Few studies have examined the ways in which a teacher develops whole-class dialogue over time and the ways in which patterns of dialogue shift over time. The research questions that guided this study were: (1) What were the initial whole-class dialogue patterns established by a fifth-grade science teacher who engaged in ABI? (2) How did the science teacher help to refine whole-class dialogue to support the agreeability of ideas constructed over time?

This eighteen week study that took place in a small city of less than 15,000 in Midwestern United States was grounded in interactive constructivism, and utilized a qualitative design method to identify the ways in which an experienced fifth-grade science teacher developed whole-class dialogue and used consensus-making activities to develop the practice of ABI with his students. The teacher in this study used the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) approach to ABI with twenty-one students who had no previous experience engaging in ABI. This teacher with 10 of years teaching experience was purposefully selected because he was proficient and experienced in practicing ABI. Multiple sources of data were collected, including classroom video with transcriptions, semi-structured interviews, after lesson conversations, and researcher's field notes. Data analysis used a basic qualitative approach.

The results showed (1) that the teacher principally engaged in three forms of whole-class dialogue with students; talking to, talking with, and thinking through ideas with students. As time went on, the teacher's interactions in whole-class dialogue became increasingly focused on thinking through ideas with students, while at the same time students also dialogued more as each unit progressed. (2) This teacher persistently engaged with students in consensus-making activities during whole-class dialogue.These efforts toward consensus-making over time became part of the students' own as each unit progressed. (3) The classroom did not engage in critique and construction of knowledge necessarily like the community of science but rather used agreeing and disagreeing and explaining why through purposeful dialogic interactions to construct a grasp of science classroom practice.

The findings have informed theory and practice about science argumentation, the practice of whole-class dialogue, and grasp of science practice along four aspects: (1) patterns of dialogue within a unit of instruction and across units of instruction, (2) the teacher's ability to follow and develop students' ideas, (3) the role of early and persistent opportunities to engage novice students in consensus-making, and (4) the meaning of grasp of science practice in classroom. This study provides insight into the importance of prolonged and persistent engagement with ABI in classroom practice.


Argument based inquiry, Dialogue, Science Argumentation, Science Writing Heuristic


xi, 155 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 144-155).


Copyright 2011 Matthew Joseph Benus