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Computers and students as instructional partners: The role of simulation feedback in collaborative argumentation

, University of California, Berkeley, United States

University of California, Berkeley . Awarded


Drawing from research that investigates reasoning with a theory-based computational model, we have developed a computer learning environment, Convince Me, designed to help students create and evaluate arguments. Laboratory studies indicate that students working individually with Convince Me to build arguments obtain benefits that are often associated with collaborative activity. The current study investigates whether these benefits can be attributed to, among other things, the feedback from Convince Me's simulation model: Does the program serve as a “computer partner” in place of a “student partner?”

Students in four ninth-grade Integrated Science classes used Convince Me either with or without model feedback. Half of the students in each group worked individually with the program, and half worked in pairs. A fifth class served as a control group whose students worked individually with paper-and-pencil exercises. Students completed a curriculum on waste management, during which they constructed arguments that evaluated waste disposal methods. Their performance in constructing arguments was assessed, they were tested for knowledge of the principles of scientific argumentation, and they were asked to evaluate the representations and support features of the Convince Me program.

The results highlight how the program's representations provide a structure for collaborative argument building and mediate communication among students, prompting pairs of students to engage in shared explanatory and reflective activity. This resulted in better performance in the argument activities and increased knowledge of scientific argumentation for students working in pairs. The results show that working with feedback from the simulation model also increased student performance by challenging their argument representations and encouraging reflection on argument structure. Finally, the results suggest that feedback from the model and collaboration are not identical in the types of instructional support that they provide. While working in pairs appeared to increase student performance by providing time and opportunity for reflection, working with the simulation model appeared to increase students' performance by focusing attention on the structure of their arguments.


Diehl, C.L. Computers and students as instructional partners: The role of simulation feedback in collaborative argumentation. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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