Closing the gap of organic chemistry students’ performance with an adaptive scaffold for argumentation patterns
Building reasonable scientific arguments is a fundamental skill students need to participate in scientific discussions. In organic chemistry, students’ argumentation and reasoning skills on reaction mechanisms are described as indicators of success. However, students often experience challenges with how to structure their arguments, use scientific principles appropriately and engage in multivariate, instead of one-reason decision-making. Since every student experiences their individual challenges with a multitude of expectations, we hypothesise that students would benefit from scaffolding that is adapted to their needs. In the present study, we investigated how 64 chemistry students interacted with an adaptive scaffold that offered different ways of support based on students’ strengths and limitations with structural and conceptual aspects that are needed to build a scientific argument in organic chemistry. Based on the students’ performance in a diagnostic scaffold in which they were asked to judge the plausibility of alternative organic reaction pathways by building arguments, the students were assigned to one of four support groups that received a scaffold adapted to their respective needs. Comparing students’ performance in the diagnostic and adapted scaffolds allows us to determine quantitatively (1) to what extent the adaptive scaffold closes the gap in students’ performance and (2) whether an adaptive scaffold improves the students’ performance in their respective area of support (argumentation and/or concept knowledge). The results of this study indicate that the adaptive scaffold can adaptively advance organic chemistry students’ argumentation patterns.