Teaching evidence-based reasoning in your class with sInvestigator

Mihai Boicu, Gheorghe Tecuci, James Trefil, Nancy Holincheck, Dorin Marcu, Terrie Galanti

Session Information

Year: 2017 | Time: 10:30am-12:00pm | Location: WORKSHOP: Johnson Center (Room B)

Abstract

BRIEF SESSION DESCRIPTION:

Digital technology gives students access to an unprecedented amount of information and data.  Teaching students how to construct arguments, bring evidence to support or refute various hypotheses, and analyze the credibility of the available information is challenging, but essential for the formation of the students. This workshop will include: an outline of the presenters's approach to accomplishing these learning goals through a problem-based learning activity structure using the digital tool sInvestigator, a brief overview of the preliminary results from NSF-sponsored project "Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Science with sInvestigator", hands-on training with the (free) sInvestigator cognitive assistant system as a digital tool for students to use in problem-based learning, and a collaborative brainstorm activity, resulting in a list of ways of using the system in varety of courses. Participants will have time to develop a problem activity to use in their course and receive presenter/peer feedback. 

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FULL ABSTRACT: Digital technology gives students access to an unprecedented amount of information and data.  More than ever, students across discplines must master critical thinking skills, more specifically evidence-based reasoning skills: making persuasive statements based on logical and probabilistic arguments taking in account evidence at various levels of credibility. Teaching students how to construct arguments, bring evidence to support or refute various hypotheses, and analyze the credibility of the available information is challenging, but essential for the formation of the students. This workshop will present an overview of the presenters approach to problem-based learning, the preliminary results from NSF-sponsored project "Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Science with sInvestigator", provide hands-on training with the sInvestigator cognitive assistant, and result in a brainstorm list of ways of using the system in varety of courses.  

The pedagogical approach is to present students with a complex problem, and guide them through a systematic process of solving it, using an intelligent computer system, called sInvestigator (science Investigator) to map out their decision-making process. The sInvestigator cognitive assistant is based on a computational theory of evidence-based reasoning in science, and will incorporate a significant amount of general knowledge about scientific reasoning with evidence. Students work in teams and are guided to approach a given scientific problem as ceaseless discovery of evidence, hypotheses, and arguments. They generate competing hypotheses from their observations of events in nature, use their hypotheses to generate new lines of inquiry and discover new evidence, and test their hypotheses based on the evidence they are discovering, to determine the most likely hypothesis. While primarily utilized in STEM courses, this logic-based process and tool could be applied as a tool in writing courses to develop and evaluate persuasive arguments.

The workshop will have the following structure:

(i) Presentation of the sInvestigator tool and the theory of evidence on which it is based (15 minutes);

(ii) Presentation of the experimental results obtained in HNRS 353 - World Modern Scientific Revolutions ( 10 minutes);

(iii) Guided practice of using the sInvestigator (20 minutes);

(iv) Participants work in teams to develop small argumentations for problems of interest selected by each group that are relevant to the courses they teach (25 minutes);

(v) Teams present their arguments to the group and share their ideas on using the tool in their courses (20 minutes)

For more information about developing critical thinking students: https://stearnscenter.gmu.edu/teaching/developing-critical-thinkers

 

For more information about sInvestigator, presentations, teaching ideas and materials visit the website: Teaching with sInvestigator:  https://sites.google.com/site/sinvestigatorgmu/

Keywords

active learning; active learning classrooms; learning spaces; teaching online;digital tools; evidence-based practices; student engagement; critical thinking

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