A group of researchers have studied the effects of cooperative learning on science attainment

Two students debating

Students were encouraged to question and make claims

Aeran Choi, from Kent State University, US, and Andrew Notebaert, Juan Diaz and Brian Hand, from Iowa University, US, have investigated the effectiveness of using the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) framework to help students construct quality 'arguments' within a scientific inquiry, ie the reasoning behind the process.1 The SWH approach requires students to generate questions and devise practical activities that will provide answers and build their knowledge.  

The researchers analysed 296 samples of written work from one class of 10-year olds, three classes of 12-year olds and five classes of 15-year olds. They looked for six components: questions posed; claims; question-claims relationships; evidence; claims-evidence relationships; and reflection. They gave each component a score out of five based around a set of criteria to give a 'Total Argument Score' out of 30. In addition they used a second set of criteria to give a 'Holistic Argument Score'. 

The results showed that the 10-year olds were, on average, able to reason within a scientific inquiry but the other two age groups had difficulty. The claims-evidence relationship was the most common critical predictor of the quality. This may be explained in terms of the subject matter being taught in the different years and the fact that different teachers were involved. The researchers conclude that teachers should provide opportunities to construct 'arguments' as a critical part of inquiry-based science teaching.