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Scientific Argumentation in an Online AP Physics 1 Course

Kernion, John (2019) Scientific Argumentation in an Online AP Physics 1 Course. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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If one were to list a group of skills essential for scientific literacy on which the educational research community finds consensus, argumentation would undoubtedly be included, and perhaps be the top choice. This understanding has recently prompted the College Board to adapt its algebra-based AP Physics 1 course expectations by making the development of scientific argumentation skill an integral aspect of successful instruction. Although computational skill development and conceptual understanding of physics are still the backbone of the course, process skills such as argumentation have now taken on significant importance and must be addressed by instructors who desire to effectively prepare their students. This action research study reports on the attempt to incorporate a constellation of argument-related activities into an online AP Physics 1 course in order to investigate the role they may play in argument skill development.
The study was conducted with homeschool students who took AP Physics 1 through an online education company called Physics Prep. Students were exposed to a variety of argument-related activities as they learned physics content over a six-month section of a school year. Analysis of data produced in pre/posttests, pre/poststudy interviews, and student-constructed artifacts, allowed for answers to inquiry questions to emerge over time. These questions were associated with the precourse level and subsequent development of skill in argumentation for fifteen students.
Findings indicated that the incoming skill level of students was generally in need of improvement relative to the expectations set by the College Board. Change in argument-related performance for course activities was then measured over time. Group-level improvement was generally found. However, inconsistent individual exhibition of argumentation skill was also noted, which pointed to sufficient physics-related conceptual development as a necessary foundation on which arguments in AP Physics 1 can be constructed. Without conceptual grounding, the arguments evaluated in this study lacked the quality required by the College Board even when the structural understanding of a high-quality argument was evident in other work. A rationale is offered that may explain the connection between argument construction and conceptual understanding of physics subject matter.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kernion, Johnkernion@gmail.comJRK136
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorAnsell,
Committee MemberKokka,
Committee MemberCavagnetto,
Date: 25 September 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 June 2019
Approval Date: 25 September 2019
Submission Date: 3 September 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 171
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Instruction and Learning
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: argumentation, AP Physics 1
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2019 15:19
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 15:19


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