Social media helps students learn scientific argumentation better than peers: study

LOS ANGELES: Students taking part in a program to learn scientific argumentation through social media learned the scientific argumentation better than their peers, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Kansas (KU) designed a curriculum unit to engage nearly 400 ninth-grade biology students in learning about scientific argumentation through social media use with their teachers and classmates.

To address ways educators can use the technology and methods effectively, researchers have since authored a chapter for the book “Digital Tools and Solutions for Inquiry-Based STEM Learning,” an article in the Journal of Education in Science, Environment and Health and an article in Educational Media International.

“Since the role of education is to prepare students to be college and career ready, the use of social media as a component of schooling should be explored,” researchers noted in their study.

As part of the project, researchers worked with teachers and administrators in several Midwestern schools to teach students, all via Twitter and Skype, about Next Generation Science Standards for scientific argumentation, including asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, engaging an argument from evidence, constructing explanations and obtaining, evaluating and communicating information.

According to KU, the program participants reported significantly higher use of social media in their academic researches, debates and sharing of scientific claims. They also follow scientists and researchers on social media.

“I’d say one of our biggest findings was that topics had to be authentic, and social media brought interactivity to the classroom that would otherwise have been nonexistent due to time, distance and schedule demands,” co-author Amber Rowland said in a statement.

The study also found that the treatment group’s students scored significantly higher than their peers on a post test in areas of sharing scientific claims, discussing scientific phenomena and demonstrating knowledge of scientific phenomena. They also reported a significant increase in confidence regarding scientific argumentation and were more confident than their peers that they had the knowledge and skills to analyze and make strong scientific claims.

The social media and science project “really became professional development for the teachers, as well,” said co-author Jana Craig-Hare, assistant research professor at KU’s Center for Research on Learning.