Learning by Talking: Building Science Knowledge of Autistic Students and Students with Learning Disabilities Through Oral Argumentation and Explanations

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0003-3927-3850
Vanuitert, Victoria, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Kennedy, Michael, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia

Understanding science topics are important for making informed decisions and comprehend issues faced in the world. To enhance science knowledge, individuals must be able to communicate their ideas by constructing arguments with evidence, explaining their thinking, and interpreting and communicating data and observations. In the science classroom, opportunities to engage in argumentation are uncommon. Many teachers are unsure of how to incorporate argumentation opportunities into their lessons effectively and what a good scientific argument entails. The current study investigates the efficacy of a multimedia intervention called Dialogic Instruction for Argumentative Learning in Science (DIALS) in supporting autistic students and students with learning disabilities in developing arguments and providing complete responses to questions. Three upper-elementary students with disabilities participated in this adapted alternating-treatments design study in which they received instruction on science topics using either DIALS or a PowerPoint comparison lesson. As a control probe, participants answered questions about a third group of words without receiving instruction. Findings from this study show promise in the DIALS enhancing the participants’ ability to provide more complete responses to the science questions and increasing the likelihood of the participants providing a claim when asked to give a scientific argument. Two of the three students also demonstrated improved argumentation quality when using DIALS compared to the other session types. All participating students reported enjoying using DIALS and expressed interest in learning science more with this method. As such, the results from this study indicate that DIALS shows promise in enhancing the communication and achievement of autistic students and students with learning disabilities in science. However, more research must be done to continue to improve the DIALS and increase its efficacy. Implications and future directions are discussed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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