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Argumentation-to-Learn in Large Lecture project

Our NSF funded Argumentation-to-Learn in Large Lecture project (collaboration with Dr. Davis and Dr. Offerdahl’s ICEBERG lab), will build on previous course initiatives to improve BIOL 107 (Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology) by integrating an argumentation-to-learn approach into the lecture part of the course. Argumentation-to-learn has previously been shown to increase students’ conceptual understanding across all students; including disproportionately positive impacts on females and low-achieving students. Further, argumentation is a disciplinary practice of scientists; it is the process through which scientists evaluate evidence as they generate new knowledge.

In this project, we focus on deliberative argumentation because it most accurately represents the argumentation practices of scientists. In particular, deliberative argumentation emphasizes collaboration and the active search for alternative explanations. This design-based research project seeks to demonstrate that an argumentation-to-learn approach is promising and ready for future efficacy studies.

Research Question:  How should deliberative argumentation be structured in large-lecture biology to support student learning?

Aim 1. Optimize pre-class activities to support deliberative argumentation

Aim 2. Refine and demonstrate feasibility of in-class argumentation activities

Aim 3. Develop and validate measure of deliberative argumentation

Aim 4. Pilot argumentation activities in large-lecture introductory undergraduate biology courses

The project will broaden understanding about “what works” in creating student-centered undergraduate large-lecture biology. Specifically, this research will (a) generate evidence regarding the efficacy of two pre-class activities in preparing students for student-centered instruction and (b) identify key instructional supports for argumentation-to-learn. This study will also advance knowledge in the field of argumentation. We will develop and validate a measure of deliberative argumentation that is replicable, going beyond the holistic descriptions currently used in the deliberative argumentation literature by identifying student-student talk patterns that comprise the broader categories of argumentation.

Modern biology research generates increasingly complex and expansive knowledge. It is no longer realistic to teach future biologists or citizens a complete body of knowledge. Rather, they should gain facility with core concepts and scientific practices. Critical inspection of and challenging of ideas is fundamental for a scientifically-literate citizenry, and for future biologists. We anticipate that our findings will be adaptable to other large-lecture STEM courses, thereby developing an agile STEM workforce.


Throughout this project, there will be a variety of publications in a variety of locations and mediums. As those come out, we will provide them to interested individuals.

Publications – Coming in the future

With much appreciation…

We thank the following sponsors for supporting this project:

The National Science Foundation
College of Education
College of Veterinary Medicine Education Research Grant



WSU School of Molecular Biosciences