Paul Duggan

Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Christine Lotter

Second Advisor

Stephen Thompson


Four of the eight Engineering Standards in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS, 2013) focus on authentic science communication: “asking questions (science) and defining problems (engineering), analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering), engaging in argument from evidence, obtaining, evaluating and communicating information” (Sampson et al., 2010, p. 218). Authentic science communication is supported in NGSS through cross-cutting concepts (Driver et al., 2000) that integrate the structure and function of science concepts together with communication strategies that include reading, writing, and peer critique. These cross-cutting concepts include reading strategies that focus on reading informational text such as cause and effect relationships, reading captions and challenge text. These skills are used in all science and engineering fields. Mastery in both science concepts and authentic scientific communication is critical to success in the STEM fields which require collaboration among scientists and independent contribution. Argument Driven Inquiry (ADI) is an instructional practice that integrates reading, writing, and peer critique that is grounded in authentic scientific practices (Driver et al., 2000). As such, ADI is an instructional approach that supports students in learning these NGSS standards. Further, ADI is a culturally-relevant pedagogical (CRP) instructional approach that is grounded in raising students’ critical consciousness (learning 21st century critical thinking skills, such as evaluation, and questioning subject matter text). It is well-known that in the literature that students’ interest in STEM declines in middle school grades, especially around sixth grade, even for students who demonstrate high academic achievement in science. Thus, ADI has been hypothesized as an instructional approach that can impact student engagement which has the potential to increase and sustain their interest in STEM at a critical point at which has been found to decline. While the correlation between high science performance and decreasing interest is well-documented for students, in general, and a few studies have examined this relationship in females, studies have not yet examined this correlation for the intersectionality of two of the highest under-represented populations in STEM based on race/ethnicity and gender: African American and Latina females.

This study utilized qualitative methods to address two research questions: Research Question 1: In what ways did implementing and scaffolding the ADI instructional approach influence the classroom experiences, interest, and self-confidence for female students of color (i.e., non-White) in middle school (sixth grade) science? Research Question 2: In what ways did using the ADI instructional approach impact female students of color (i.e., non-White) written argumentation skills (including peer review) and scientific voice in middle school (sixth grade) science?

Participants were four female students in sixth grade science classes representing African American and Latina females with low socio-economic status ranging in ages from 11-12 years of age. These students received ADI science instruction within the same school. The study took place during the first quarter of the fall semester of sixth grade. I was the researcher and also the classroom science teacher. I taught using the ADI instructional approach, and I collected the data from the students that was used for this study. Specifically, I took field notes while observing the students during their interactive labs, and I conducted semi-structured individual interviews three times during this study with each student and two focus groups that included all four participants at the end of this study. Several data sources were used to form the basis of the interviews: participants’ ratings on science interest and self-efficacy questionnaires completed at the beginning of the school year as a regular part of classroom procedures, as well as their academic performance as measured by their repeated-measure teacher team-completed ADI Rubric for each individual student for each lab and their written lab reports. Two independent coders and I coded the transcribed data, and an inductive analysis approach was used to analyze the data. Because I was the researcher and also the students’ classroom teacher, precautions were taken to protect against bias. Namely, the ADI rubric was scored by a collective group of teachers in the science department rather than me as the primary teacher alone (note that this practice of multiple teachers scoring the ADI rubrics is standard procedure at this school and was not implemented differently for this study), independent coders were used in addition to my coding transcripts, and other triangulation of various data sources (e.g., written work through peer-reviewed and teacher team-scored lab reports, focus group interview, individual interviews and questionnaires) were used to assist me in making valid inferences. Findings from this study have the potential to impact decisions made about selecting instructional approaches in science for underrepresented middle school students, specifically females who are African American or Latina.


© 2022, Paul Duggan