In this project, we are examining the use of instructional scaffolds—called model-evidence link (MEL) activities to facilitate high school students’ coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular Earth and space sciences phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena.

The project also examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepen their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry.

The project’s research questions are:

  1. How does year-long instruction using MEL activities change high school students’ critical evaluation abilities;
  2. How does use of critical evaluation promote judgment reappraisals about Earth and space science topics with large plausibility gaps (e.g., controversial topics, such as climate change, or abstract concepts, such as plate tectonics); and
  3. To what extent does promotion of plausibility reappraisal lead to high school students’ construction and reconstruction of scientifically accurate conceptions about fundamental concepts in Earth and space sciences?

We are developing four MEL activities that focus on important topics in Earth and space sciences:

  1. Climate change,
  2. Earthquakes and fracking,
  3. Wetlands use, and
  4. Formation of the Moon

Four teachers, two from Clark County School District in Nevada and two from school districts in New Jersey, have teamed up with the PI and Co-I in the development of these MEL diagrams, with their supporting evidence texts and evaluation instruments. The project employs a design-based research methodology and occurs over three years.

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