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Overcoming Silent Classrooms: Facilitating Richer, Student-Centered Class-Wide Discussions to Support Learning Through Exposure to Multiple Perspectives and Practicing Scientific Argumentation

Gess, Sean (2023) Overcoming Silent Classrooms: Facilitating Richer, Student-Centered Class-Wide Discussions to Support Learning Through Exposure to Multiple Perspectives and Practicing Scientific Argumentation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Discussion is a vital component of the scientific process and dialogic learning opportunities support student learning gains and scientific epistemic learning. Discussions can improve connections between concepts and support student engagement which can increase retention in STEM programs. It has also been reported that a correlation exists between students that are more comfortable speaking in class with increased gains in learning class content, being better prepared for their classes, and earning higher grades.

Despite these benefits, generating robust, student-centered, class-wide discussion around student research in my inquiry-based research labs is challenging. Students often do not engage in class-wide discussions in meaningful ways and this dialogue tends to fall into the routine of the instructor asking questions in which often a student will provide the “right” answer then silence returns to the classroom. Actual dialogue rarely takes off.

To better facilitate more robust, student-centered dialogue during the lab meeting activity in my courses I utilized literature-based practices to help students better understand the purposes of the lab meeting activity and develop their authority in the classroom. I implemented three PDSA cycles within the context of improvement science utilizing these practices.

Each cycle utilized a unique practice (making the implicit explicit, utilizing teacher noticing, and using the “teacher-as-partner” model). I then collected data from students, using a Qualtrics survey, and the course instructional team, using journaling and focus group interviews, to gauge the success of each practice in facilitating richer class-wide discussions.

The first intervention, utilizing explicit learning objectives seemed to drive an attitude change and generally led to higher engagement and efforts to utilize scientific arguments. The two interventions focused on authority did not seem to impact class-wide discussion in clear ways.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gess, Seanswg28@pitt.eduswg28
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairQuigley,
Committee MemberClarke,
Committee MemberCorrenti,
Date: 21 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 May 2023
Approval Date: 21 September 2023
Submission Date: 31 July 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 167
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: Improvement science, Class-wide discussion, Student-centered discussion, Student authority, Explicit instruction, Teacher noticing, Teacher-as-partner, Authentic research, Scientific argumentation, Peer learning, STEM, College students
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2023 20:41
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2023 20:41


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