Fostering Students' Content Knowledge and Argumentation Skills in an Interactive Classroom Discourse with Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Instruction
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The purpose of this study was to examine how an engineering classroom community appropriates active learning discourse over a semester that promoted student content knowledge and scientific argumentation. It also assessed how a scientific argumentation could be used as a discourse to assess student learning of engineering. Despite of much quantitative research on the effectiveness of active learning instruction, there is little attention to qualitative research to examine the practical implementation of active learning in a classroom. The research questions that guided this study were: (1) How do students react when an engineering professor challenges students’ accepted teaching practices? (2) In what ways do the professor and/or tools assist students to overcome obstacles? (3) What are the features of an engineering reformed instruction through the lens of good pedagogy and what can be accomplished? This sixteen-week qualitative case study was grounded in constructivism and dialogism to identify student interactions and trace classroom discourse of their participating in active learning contexts. This study was conducted in an undergraduate engineering classroom with 44 students’ participation. Ten students and an instructor were interviewed. Multiple sources of data were collected, including pretest and posttest, classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, and a survey. Data analysis was conducted using the constant comparative method, in-depth analysis of classroom discourse episodes, and Toulmin’s argumentation framework. The findings showed that as the engineering students had more opportunities to practice, they could develop a more sophisticated understanding of active learning classroom discourse, use talk as learning tools to negotiate their ideas with peers, engage in more scientific argumentation, and improve their agency for their learning in engineering. Three major findings are discussed: (1) increased appropriation of active learning discourse in negotiations, (2) increased ability to justify written arguments, and (3) scientific argumentation as an assessment tool for student learning in engineering. This study provides insights into the practical design of technology-enhanced active learning environment in which engineering students can develop successful argumentative practices to become collaborative problem solvers. To disseminate active learning instruction as engineering practice, a long-term professional development program in the support of teachers implementing active learning discourse is suggested.