Dr. Joe Krajcik, Keynote: CREATE for STEM

Building the Future #techbooklive13

From Michigan State University, Dr. Joe Krajcik has an extensive and impressive background in education and is working on the next generation science center, so he is a perfect fit as a keynote speaker for a day of DE Science TechBook exploration. The focus of Dr. Krajcik’s presentation today is the importance of argument in K-12 Science Education and how you support argumentation in your teaching practices.

Dr. Krajcik said that important and critical aspects of science learning and practices centers around argumentation, supported by several core pedagogical practices.

Why is argument so important in the scientific process. Because there are many different ways to interpret data, with no one necessarily correct way to extrapolate data, support interpretation of data, experimental design, and attack the next generation of science standards, which is the production of knowledge based on evidence that justifies a claim about the world.

An example of science question/claim that requires evidence, counter-evidence, and argument to achieve an Essential Answer.The data collected must be appropriate and support the data with evidence. Evidence collected in a science classroom must be sufficient to serve as evidence for the current claim. If this form of evidence collection and argument is not happening in a science classroom, then you are not addressing the next generation of science standards. Show and explaining and demonstrating the evidence is a critical piece of argument. Claims, counter-arguments, and additional evidence all preclude final class answers to essential questions. But it’s all about the process of argumentation.

Why is it important for students to engage in argument? Check the answers on the screenshot to the right. One primary reason is the promotion of literacy, especially in a science discipline. We do not achieve rich scientific theories without the art of argument, because as our evidence changes, our theories change. That IS the process of science and as such, it very critical to the process of learning. Students become intelligent consumers as they learn to make decisions about evidence, both inside and outside the science classroom. Think voting… And the only way to develop these skills is the practice them. And that is the practice of science–how it’s really done–in the K-12 science framework.

Scientific and Engineering Practices are just enriched forms of inquiry at  higher intellectual level. Planning and carrying out an investigation requires analyzing mathematical and computational thinking for the analysis of a problem. Argument will ensure as students develop a model or an explanation, necessary for an answer. The process of refining the questions and explanations is ongoing in scientific analysis. There is no one immediate and clear answer without going through a thorough exploration of scientific practices and cross-cutting concepts that address the next generation of science standards: scientific production. Students must demonstrate knowledge through performance of knowledge in use that support core ideas in science.

An example of achieving the art of argument in performance education blends core ideas, argument, and cross-cutting arguments. Dr. Krajcik provided samples of K-12 science exemplars of how the process of argumentation should be implemented in the science classroom for applying and explaining phenemona. Core ideas does not mean students can analyze problems; they need to develop a level of understanding to apply, view, explain, and problem solve.


Deep understanding occurs over time and is built upon beginning in elementary school. Teachers need to support this process; it doesn’t happen by osmosis. You need to build the process into the learning and teaching environment. You build on prior knowledge, build core ideas, and then teach the art of argumentation. The process of argumentation is a slow progression toward academic sophistication. As a scientist and researcher, Dr. Krajcik says the argument progression must continue throughout higher education and continue in research publications, conferences, and approaches to life at large. Support claims, find flaws in our own arguments and improve them, recognize that major features of science are data, evidence, and reasoning, and above all, we want all our students to look at various media in a critical manner to support their strengths.

What is the most challenging aspect of developing argument in the classroom? Sometimes students have difficulty developing sufficient evidence; historically, a student will grab one piece of data to support a claim. Evidence must be comprehensive. Reasoning is critical to establishing the best piece of evidence and considering alternative claims by other students. What do you do with new evidence and investigation? How does that incorporate into a changing new argument. Taking into play the viewpoints of others is critical to academic growth. Teachers must provide the framework and we must work with them (see slide on right).

One of the most important things I believe Dr. Krajcik said is the need to teach students to LISTEN. Without reinforcing the listening component, the rest of the process that leads to argument as a way of thinking simply won’t occur. Critical listening skills must be taught from kindergarden through high school and college, as well as graduate school. In that way, we will create a different kind of learner across disciplines and change the state of learning in American. In summation, argument is about having students build and refute claims toward creating a final product.

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