The development of the learning progression (LP) for constructing scientific explanations is largely based on an empirical work focused on an LP for evidence-based explanations that account for biodiversity (Songer, Kelcey, & Gotwals, 2009). Although Songer et al. stressed the importance of integrating content and inquiry reasoning progressions as parallel templates that together constitute an LP for a focal topic, we intentionally separate the content and science practice progressions in our current work, since there is no convincing empirical evidence that supports the parallel progression of of both the matter core idea and the practice of constructing explanations.. The development of our LP for constructing scientific explanations is also influenced by the theoretical work of McNeill and Krajcik (2008) and Osborne and Patterson (2011) that characterizes a scientific explanation as a linguistic construct that contains three elements, namely a claim, evidence, and reasoning, as described in the section that clarifies and elaborates our working definition of a scientific explanation.

Our LP for constructing explanation shows a progression from simple linguistic structures that include fewer elements, to more sophisticated structures that include more elements and connections among them. Levels 1 and 2 represent a very poor explanatory structure that misses major components of the explanatory framework such as evidence and reasoning. Levels 3 and 4 are intermediate models that present some causal relationships but lack coherence of reasoning with science principles. Levels 5 and 6 include sophisticated coherent models with all components of the explanatory framework, but differ in the extent of sufficient reasoning.

Table 3 presents the LPs for constructing scientific explanations.

Table 3
The Learning Progression for Constructing Scientific Explanations
Achievement
Gap/challenge
Instructional experience to support progression
Level 1: Nonstructural model
  • Student makes no claim or an inaccurate claim.
  • Student does not make a claim or makes an inaccurate claim.
  • Make it explicit to students about what a good claim is (i.e., an assertion or conclusion that addresses the original question or problem about a phenomenon).
  • Model and critique strengths and weakness of claims by showing examples.
  • Provide a rationale for creating claims.
  • Make use of students’ preexisting knowledge about claims.
  • Provide feedback in response to students’ claims.
Level 2: Noncausal relation model
  • Student makes a claim.

Key word: claim
  • Student does not back the claim up with evidence.
  • Help students understand why it is important to include justification to convince others to accept the claims.
  • Make it explicit to students what constitutes evidence (i.e., the evidence supports the claim using scientific data. Data can come from an investigation that students complete or from another source, such as observations, reading material, or archived data, and needs to be both appropriate and sufficient to support the claim).
  • Model the justification of claims with examples.
  • Draw on what students know about evidence or justification in their everyday life and help them understand scientific evidence.
  • Provide feedback in response to students’ justification.
Level 3: Insufficient causal relation model
  • Student makes an accurate claim.
  • Student backs the claim up with evidence.

Key words: accurate claim; evidence
  • The evidence is insufficient/inappropriate.
  • Make explicit to students what counts as appropriate and sufficient evidence (i.e., by appropriate, we mean data that are relevant to the problem and help support the claim. Sufficient refers to providing enough data to convince another individual of the claim. Often providing sufficient evidence requires using multiple pieces of data).
  • Model the justification of claims with sufficient evidence with examples.
  • Draw on what students know about evidence or justification in their everyday life and help them understand what counts as good evidence.
  • Provide feedback in response to students’ justifications.
Level 4: Causal relation model
  • Student makes an accurate claim.
  • Student backs the claim up with sufficient and appropriate evidence.

Key words: accurate claim; sufficient and appropriate evidence
  • Student does not use reasoning to tie the claim and evidence together.
  • Help students understand why it is important to include reasoning to convince others to accept the claims.
  • Make explicit to students what reasoning is (i.e., reasoning links the claim and evidence and shows why the data count as evidence to support the claim).
  • Model the use of reasoning with examples that tie claims to evidence.
  • Draw on what students know about reasoning in their everyday life and help them understand scientific reasoning.
  • Provide feedback in response to students’ reasoning.
Level 5: Insufficient coherence model
  • Student makes an accurate claim.
  • Student backs the claim up with sufficient and appropriate evidence.
  • Student provides reasoning that links the claim and evidence and includes some but not appropriate and sufficient scientific principles.
Key words: accurate claim; appropriate and sufficient evidence; reasoning
  • Student does not provide appropriate and sufficient scientific principles to link evidence and claims.
  • Make required components of a scientific explanation explicit to students.
  • Make explicit what good reasoning is in science.
  • Model and critique explanations.
  • Provide a rationale for creating explanations.
  • Connect to everyday explanations.
  • Assess and provide feedback to students.
Level 6: Sufficient coherence model
  • Student constructs scientific explanation consisting of an accurate claim, sufficient and appropriate evidence, and sufficient reasoning including appropriate and sufficient scientific principles to tie the evidence to the claim.
Key words: accurate claim; sufficient and appropriate evidence; sufficient reasoning
  • N/A
  • N/A


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