Argumentative writing as a tool to develop conceptual and epistemic knowledge in a college chemistry course designed for non-science majors

Ying Chih Chen, Claudia Aguirre-Mendez, Takeshi Terada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study used a quasi-experimental design to examine the effects of argumentative writing on non-science majors’ conceptual understanding and the growth of their writing skills over a semester. To assess gain in conceptual knowledge, tests were given before and after the course; students in the writing group gained significantly more than students in the control group. Results showed that argumentative writing was a predictor of student performance on such tests. Those starting the course with a low level of content knowledge and female students benefited the most from the writing exercises. Regression analysis suggested that four components of writing were predictive of student conceptual performance: the relationship between claim and question, the relationship between claim and evidence, use of multiple examples, and the match between writing type desired and actual writing. Longitudinal growth analysis indicated that the quality of student writing, and thus their understanding of scientific practice, increased modestly over time. Repeated framing of expectations using content-related examples about what constitutes good argumentative writing is an important factor in the improvement of student writing. Pedagogically, instructors planning to implement argumentative writing for conceptual and epistemic development should consider these four components as a pedagogical model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Argumentative writing
  • epistemic knowledge
  • interactive online-based simulations
  • language tool
  • writing growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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