Development of the Science Dialogue Heuristic: A Framework for Supporting Oral Argumentation
J. Bryan Henderson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Arizona State University

Primary Discipline

Science Education
A primary goal of this proposal is to provide students a Science Dialogue Heuristic (SDH) that supports oral argumentation through a promotion of epistemic vigilance, which is an inclination for frequent questioning that recognizes the importance of critique. The proposed study will explore how classroom implementation of the SDH can work to improve the depth in which students express their thinking. Middle school science teachers will be trained to use a classroom response technology I have developed to promote argumentation, and the resulting oral arguments will provide a testing ground for iterative development of the SDH. Depth of thinking is operationalized in terms of the cognitive load complexity of arguments provided by students, and this complexity will be analyzed through an empirically-validated argument diagramming system that I have developed. Complexity analysis of students supported with the SDH will be compared to their counterparts not privy to the SDH. Not only can this proposed research help support students engaged in a new way of learning science, but the SDH stands to benefit peer-to-peer learning writ large, as the promotion of epistemic vigilance can benefit any domain where decision-making is necessary amidst a diversity of information and perspectives.
About J. Bryan Henderson
J. Bryan Henderson received his PhD from Stanford University in Science Education. His research pursues two crucial objectives: (1) given the substantial empirical evidence for the importance of our prior thinking in the construction of new thinking, learners need to be provided spaces where they feel safe to share their thinking at whatever stage their ideas might be in; and (2) how we exchange ideas can vary in sophistication, and hence, supports are necessary for students to articulate their thinking and the sharing of those ideas in an increasingly critical, evidence-based fashion. Henderson is interested in the utilization of educational technology to facilitate critical, peer-to-peer science learning. His classroom-based research on critical speaking and listening intersects with his psychometric development of assessments that gauge how students learn science through evidence-based argumentation. As the director of the Braincandy project (, Henderson has developed a cloud-based technology that affords students the safety of participating in classroom activities anonymously, and then makes discrepancies in anonymous student thinking transparent to the entire classroom through visualization tools. In turn, these differences in thinking set the stage for authentic, peer-to-peer argumentation as students seek to overcome uncertainty in the pursuit of classroom consensus. With six college degrees and a research background in astrophysics, Henderson has extensive experience teaching a multitude of courses in learning theories, statistics, and physics. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences at Arizona State University, where he is a recipient of the ASU Centennial Professorship Award for outstanding teaching, leadership, and service. Henderson is a Principal Investigator on a 3-million-dollar collaborative research grant between ASU and UC Berkeley, funded by the National Science Foundation.

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