Essential Learning Event 4

Students revise ideas, models, and explanations through critique and argumentation.

As students share explanations and models, they use argumentation and critique with peers to refine and revise their thinking. Such discussions may lead to further investigations. Models and explanations about phenomena are improved and refined as additional ideas and evidence is provided.

Foregrounded Practices of ELE4

SEP2: Developing and using models

SEP6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions

SEP7: Engaging in argument from evidence

Student Use Continuum for ELE4

Foregrounded SEP Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
SEP2: Developing and using models Students do not create models. Students create models. Students’ models focus on describing natural phenomena rather than predicting or explaining the natural world. Students do not evaluate the merits and limitations of the model. Students create models focused on predicting or explaining the naturals world. Students do not evaluate the merits and limitations of the model. Students create models focused on predicting or explaining the natural world. Students do evaluate the merits and limitations of the model.
SEP6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions Students do not create scientific models. Students attempt to create scientific explanations but students’ explanations are descriptive instead of explaining how or why a phenomenon occurs. Students do not use appropriate evidence to support their explanations. Students construct explanations that focus on explaining how or why a phenomenon occurs. Students do not use appropriate evidence to support their explanations. Students construct explanations that focus on explaining how or why a phenomenon occurs and use appropriate evidence to support their explanations.
SEP7: Engaging in argument from evidence Students do not engage in argumentation. Students engage in argumentation where they support their claims with evidence or reasoning, but it is primarily teacher-driven. Students engage in student-driven argumentation. The student discourse includes evidence and reasoning to support their claim. Students also agree and disagree, but rarely engage in critique. Students engage in student-driven argumentation. The student discourse includes evidence, reasoning that links the evidence to their claim and critique of competing arguments during which students build on and question each other’s ideas.

Note: The levels reflect increasingly sophisticated engagement in the practices and are not grade-level specific. Appendix F in the NGSS provides significantly more detail for each practice that should be integrated as both students and teachers develop greater fluency with each practice.

Sample Student Actions for ELE4

Revise and Refine a Model (SEP2)

  • Students revise and refine a model based on new data, evidence, or information.
  • Students modify a model, based on evidence, to match what happened when a variable or component of a system is changed. (SEP3)
  • Students discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a model or different models (that they have created or that was created by others).
  • Students apply a model to a related example and then revise the model to reflect new information.
  • Students evaluate a model by comparing predictions to the real world and then adjust the model accordingly. (SEP3)
  • Students design a test of a model to ascertain its reliability. (SEP3)

Revise an Explanation (SEP6)

  • Students construct a revised or expanded explanation based on new evidence or context.
  • Students give feedback to each other about written explanations. (SEP7)
  • Students identify gaps or weaknesses in explanatory accounts (their own or those of others). (SEP7)
  • Students ask questions about other students’ explanations. (SEP1)

Argue from Evidence (SEP7)

  • Students develop an argument that explicitly supports or refutes the given claim, explanation, or design solution using the evidence and known scientific information.
  • Students present an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon.
  • Students identify the given claims and explanations to be evaluated, supported, or refuted with argumentation.
  • Students ask questions to identify and clarify evidence of an argument. (SEP1)
  • Students clearly identify the given evidence that supports or refutes the given claims or explanations. (SEP4)
  • Students analyze why some evidence is relevant to a scientific question and some is not. (SEP4)
  • Students clearly identify the given reasoning that supports or refutes the given claims or explanations. (SEP6)
  • Students compare and critique two arguments on the same topic and analyze whether they emphasize similar or different evidence and/or interpretations of facts.
  • Students respectfully provide and receive critiques about one’s explanations, procedures, models and questions by citing relevant evidence and posing and responding to questions that elicit pertinent elaboration and detail.
  • Students assess the validity, reliability, strengths, and weaknesses of the chosen evidence along with its ability to support logical and reasonable arguments about the claims, explanations, or design solutions.

Teacher Use Continuum for ELE4

Foregrounded SEP Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
SEP2: Developing and using models Teacher does not provide opportunities for students to create models. Teacher provides opportunities for students to create models. Students’ models focus on describing natural phenomenon rather than predicting or explaining the natural world. Students do not evaluate the merits and limitations of the model. Teacher provides opportunities for students to create models focused on predicting or explaining the natural world. Students do not evaluate the merits and limitations of the model. Teacher provides opportunities for students to create models focused on predicting or explaining the natural world. Students do evaluate the merits and limitations of the model.
SEP6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions Teacher does not provide opportunities for students to create scientific explanations. Teacher provides opportunities for students to create scientific explanations but students’ explanations are descriptive instead of explaining how or why a phenomenon occurs. Students do not use appropriate evidence to support their explanations. Teacher provides opportunities for students to construct explanations that focus on explaining how or why a phenomenon occurs. Students do not use appropriate evidence to support their explanations. Teacher provides opportunities for students to construct explanations that focus on explaining how or why a phenomenon occurs and use appropriate evidence to support their explanations.
SEP7: Engaging in argument from evidence Teacher does not provide opportunities for students to engage in argumentation. Teacher provides opportunities for students to engage in argumentation where they support their claims with evidence or reasoning, but the discourse is primarily teacher-driven. Teacher provides opportunities for students to engage in student-driven argumentation. The student discourse includes evidence and reasoning to support their claim. Students also agree and disagree, but rarely engage in critique. Teacher provides opportunities for students to engage in student-driven argumentation. The student discourse includes evidence, reasoning that links the evidence to their claim, and critique of competing arguments during which students build on and question each other’s ideas.

Note: The levels reflect increasingly sophisticated engagement in the practices and are not grade-level specific. Appendix F in the NGSS provides significantly more detail for each practice that should be integrated as both students and teachers develop greater fluency with each practice.

Sample Teacher Actions and Instructional Strategies for ELE4

Revise and Refine a Model (SEP2)

  • Have students do a “gallery walk” of the different models they create. Students make notes about how the various models do and do not explain the phenomenon being modeled.1
  • Ask students to critique models from various sources, such as texts, the internet, and physical representations in the classroom. Facilitate a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of the different models. Emphasize for students that all models have benefits and drawbacks.1
  • Ask students to apply a model to a different example and then revise the model to reflect the new information (e.g. apply a model for sinking and floating of objects to the floating of a boat).1
  • Critique models as a regular part of class discussions. Some models have more explanatory power than others, but no model explains everything about a particular phenomenon. Each model fits in some ways and not in others.
  • Have students do a “gallery walk” of the different models they create. Provide students with a chart to use to make notes about how the various models do and do not explain the phenomenon being modeled. Give students sticky notes to post suggestions and comments for their peers.1
  • Ask students to critique models from various sources, such as texts, the internet, and physical representations in the classroom. Facilitate a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of the different models. Emphasize for students that all models have benefits and drawbacks.

Revise an Explanation (SEP6)

  • Provide examples of strong and weak examples (e.g. describes a phenomenon instead of explaining it). Critique the examples as a class.
  • Ask students to highlight the key features of an explanation (explanatory account, science ideas and evidence) in their own or a peer’s writing.
  • Ask students to give feedback to each other about written explanations. Provide sentence starters to students to help them make specific statements about the explanations. Examples of sentences starters can include “I have a question about your evidence...”, “I am not sure that your writing explains why _____ occurs. Can you explain that to me?, or “How can we use our big science ideas to help explain _____?”

Argue from Evidence (SEP7)

Note:  Argumentation is the process by which evidence-based conclusions and solutions are reached.

  • Introduce students to the argumentation framework of claim, evidence and reasoning (CER). A claim answers a question or problem, which could be an explanation or model. Evidence is data that supports the claim, such as observations and measurements. Reasoning explains why the evidence supports the claim using scientific ideas or principles.
  • Provide students with scaffolds such as a graphic organizer, sentence starters or questions that highlight the CER components to help them craft their arguments.
  • Revise argumentation questions in lessons or curriculum to ensure that there is more than one possible claim that students could potentially support with evidence. When students have multiple competing claims, there is more opportunity for critique.
  • Facilitate a discussion about the norms for argumentation. Explain to students that they should be talking directly to each other, and not through the teacher. In addition, they should be questioning and critiquing each other’s ideas. However, it is also important for students to be willing to change their minds if new ideas or evidence are presented by their peers that convinces them of the strength of a competing claim.
  • Create a poster in the classroom that supports the CER structure as well as students critiquing different ideas. It could include sentence starters such as, “My evidence is...” and “I disagree because...”, as well as questions such as “What are some other possible claims? Do we have support for those claims?” and “Why did you decide to use that evidence to support your claim? Could the data be interpreted in a different way?”
  • Model for students what it looks like to question or critique another person’s idea. For example, “I disagree with Maria’s claim, because I interpreted the data in a different way. I think the data shows that lung capacity is important for....”
  • Limit teacher talk during argumentation by physically removing yourself from the discussion (e.g. sit in the corner of the room) and/or telling students that you have a specific task during the discussion. For example, you can tell the class that your job is to record the different evidence that comes up during the conversation and that you will not be actively talking during the discussion.

Questions to Promote the Use of the SEP and CCC in ELE4

Revise and Refine a Model (SEP2)

  • How does the model you have support the prediction you are making?
  • In light of new data we have collected, how would you revise or refine your model?
  • How can we test the model against what happens in the real world?
  • What is the purpose of this model?
  • What is the model trying to represent?
  • What are some ways this model works well or fits well?
  • What are some ways this model does not work well or fit well?
  • Is there anything about what the model is representing that is really complex? How can the model be revised to better represent a complex idea? (CCC Systems and System Models)
  • Does the model help you simplify and think about what is happening? (CCC Systems and System Models)
  • Does the model help you “zoom in” or “zoom out” to think about what is happening? (CCC Scale, Proportion and Quantity)
  • Does the model help you slow down or speed up what is happening so you can think about what is happening? (CCC Scale, Proportion, and Quantity)
  • Does the model allow you to imagine what is hidden so you can think about what is happening?
  • How does the process of modeling help you simplify and think about what was happening? (CCC Systems and System Models)
  • Were there moments when you thought you understood what was happening, so you tested your ideas with your model to see if you were right? How can we model how this system changes? (CCC Stability and Change)
  • How can we model how this structure works? (CCC Structure and Function)
  • How can we model the flow of energy ? How can you model the cycling of matter? (CCC Matter and Energy: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation)
  • How can you model this system? Can we model how this system functions? (CCC System and System Models)
  • How can you make a model that helps you understand nature at this scale? (CCC Scale, Proportion, and Quantity)
  • What model will explain this cause and effect relationship? (CCC Cause and Effect)
  • How can I model this pattern? Can I make a model to explain this pattern? (CCC Patterns)

Revise an Explanation (SEP6)

  • How can you explain this pattern? How can this pattern support your explanation? (CCC Patterns)
  • What explains how the cause leads to the effect? What does this cause and effect relationship help to explain? (CCC Cause and Effect)
  • How can you explain how nature works at this scale? Can you explain how what happens at this scale affects nature at other scales? (CCC Scale and Proportion)
  • How can you explain the function of this system? (CCC System and System Models)
  • How can you explain how energy affects this system? How can you explain how matter changes in this system? (CCC Matter and Energy: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation)
  • How can you explain how the structure is related to the function? (CCC Structure and Function)
  • How can you explain why this system changes or remains stable? (CCC Stability and Change)

Argue from Evidence (SEP7)

  • What evidence do you have to support your idea?
  • Which arguments support the evidence we have?
  • What is the evidence for this pattern? Can you use this pattern as evidence to support my argument? (CCC Patterns)
  • What is the evidence that the cause leads to the effect? (CCC Cause and Effect)
  • What is the evidence that we have for our description of nature at this scale? (CCC Scale and Proportion)
  • What evidence do we have to support our model of this system? (CCC System and System Models)
  • What is the evidence for how energy and matter affect this system? (CCC Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation)
  • What is the evidence for the structure supports the function? (CCC Structure and Function)
  • What is the evidence for the stability and change in this system? (CCC Stability and Change)

Assessment Task Formats for ELE4

Potential Task Formats: Developing and Using Models (SEP2)

1

Present two models to students, then

  • Ask them to compare the models to identify both common and unique model components, relationships, and mechanisms.

2

Present students with an illustration or drawing of a scientific process or system, then

  • Ask students to label the components, interactions, and mechanisms in the model, and

  • Write a description of what is shown in the drawing.

3

Present students with a model of an observable scientific process or system and some evidence about how the system behaves that does not fit the model, then

  • Ask students to revise the model to better fit available evidence.

4

Present students with a textual description of an observable scientific phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to draw and label the model components, interactions among components, and mechanisms in the model, and

  • Ask students to write an explanation for the phenomenon, using the model as supporting evidence.

5

Present students with a textual description of an observable scientific phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to draw a model that helps explain how this phenomenon occurs by applying their understanding of a disciplinary core idea, and

  • Write a prediction about something that might happen in the future that could be explained by the model.

6

Present students with two different models for the same observable phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to compare the two models with respect to their accuracy, and

  • Apply what they know about a disciplinary core idea to justify their answer.

7

Present students with two different models for the same observable phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to develop a test to determine which model better fits available evidence.

8

Provide students with a digital modeling tool that is intended to represent a system or process in which the mechanisms are not visible to the naked eye, then

  • Ask students to use the modeling tool to identify and describe model components, interactions, and mechanisms.

Potential Task Formats: Constructing Explanations (SEP6)

Note: A set of task formats for designing solutions is available at http://researchandpractice.org/NGSSTaskFormats

Relevant definition:

  • “Scientific explanations are accounts that link scientific theory with specific observations or phenomena… Very often the theory is first represented by a specific model for the situation in question, and then a model-based explanation is developed.” (NRC Framework, 2012).

1

Describe a phenomenon to students along with relevant evidence (which can come from a media source), then

  • Ask students to write an evidence-based account of what causes the phenomena.

2

Describe a phenomenon to students along with some related qualitative or quantitative data/observations, then

  • Ask students produce an explanation about the mechanism for the phenomena using their interpretation of the data as evidence.

3

Describe a phenomenon to students and present qualitative or quantitative data for independent and dependent variables, then

  • Ask students to produce a causal account that explains how the independent variables relate to the dependent variables.

4

Describe a phenomenon to students along with a related set of evidence and an explanation that includes multiple scientific principles, then

  • Ask students to say which pieces of evidences support particular components of the explanation.

5

Present students with a model or representation of an observable scientific process or system, then

  • Ask students to write a causal explanation for a relevant phenomenon using the model as supporting evidence.

6

Describe a phenomenon and present students with a causal explanation of it, then

  • Ask students to identify gaps or weaknesses in how it scientifically explains the phenomenon based on their level of scientific understanding.

7

Describe a phenomenon and present students with a range of evidence obtained from a variety of sources (empirical investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review), then

  • Ask students to articulate (construct) a causal explanation for the phenomena, and
  • Describe how the evidence relates to the mechanisms or principles they have included.

Potential Task Formats: Engaging in Argument from Evidence (SEP7)

1

Present two different arguments related to a phenomenon, one with evidence and one without, then

  • Ask students to identify the argument that is more scientific and ask them why they think that is the case.

2

Describe a phenomenon to students, then

  • Ask students to articulate (construct) a claim about that phenomenon, and
  • Identify evidence that supports the claim, and
  • Articulate the scientific principle(s) that connect each piece of evidence to the claim.

3

Present students with a claim about a phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to identify evidence that supports the claim, and
  • Articulate the scientific principle(s) that connect each piece of evidence to the claim.

4

Present students with a claim and evidence about a phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to assess how well the evidence supports the claim.

5a,
5b

Present students with a claim and evidence and reasoning about a phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to assess the reasoning of a given link between claim and evidence or
  • Ask students to assess the logical link between claim and evidence.

6a,
6b

Describe a situation in which two or more explanations are offered for a phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to identify the different claims at issue (easier), or
  • Ask students to identify different claims and the evidence with each claim (harder).

7a,
7b

Present students with a claim, a list of data sources that are relevant to the claim (but not what the data say), then

  • Ask students to identify (select from a list) a pattern of evidence from the data that would support the claim, or
  • Ask students to identify (select from a list) what pattern of evidence from the data would refute the claim.

8a,
8b,
8c,
8d

Present students with a claim and a pattern of evidence relevant to the claim, then

  • Ask students to assess whether the evidence is logically consistent with the claim, or
  • Ask students to assess whether the evidence is consistent with a scientific theory or model they have studied, or
  • Ask students to generate ideas about additional evidence needed to support the claim, or
  • Ask students to generate ideas about additional evidence needed to support the claim.