Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jennifer E. Lewis


Cooperative learning, peer leaders, small groups, teacher training, Toulmin's argumentation model


This dissertation work entails three related studies on the investigation of Peer-Led Guided Inquiry student discourse in a General Chemistry I course through argumentation. The first study, Argumentation and participation patterns in general chemistry peer-led sessions, is focused on examining arguments and participation patterns in small student groups without peer leader intervention. The findings of this study revealed that students were mostly engaged in co-constructed arguments, that a discrepancy in the participation of the group members existed, and students were able to correct most of the incorrect claims on their own via argumentation.

The second study, Exploration of peer leader verbal behaviors as they intervene with small groups in college general chemistry, examines the interactive discourse of the peer leaders and the students during peer leader intervention. The relationship between the verbal behaviors of the peer leaders and the student argumentation is explored in this study. The findings of this study demonstrated that peer leaders used an array of verbal behaviors to guide students to construct chemistry concepts, and that a relationship existed between student argument components and peer leader verbal behaviors.

The third study, Use of Tolumin's Argumentation Scheme for student discourse to gain insight about guided inquiry activities in college chemistry, is focused on investigating the relationship between student arguments without peer leader intervention and the structure of published guided inquiry ChemActivities. The relationship between argumentation and the structure of the activities is explored with respect to prompts, questions, and the segmented Learning Cycle structure of the ChemActivities. Findings of this study revealed that prompts were effective in eliciting arguments, that convergent questions produced more arguments than directed questions, and that the structure of the Learning Cycle successfully scaffolded arguments.

A semester of video data from two different small student groups facilitated by two different peer leaders was used for these three related studies. An analytic framework based on Toulmin's argumentation scheme was used for the argumentation analysis of the studies.

This dissertation work focused on the three central elements of the peer-led classroom, students, peer leader, and the ChemActivities, illuminates effective discourse important for group learning. Overall, this dissertation work contributes to science education by providing both an analytic framework useful for investigating group processes and crucial strategies for conducting effective cooperative learning and promoting student argumentation. The findings of this dissertation work have valuable implications in the professional development of teachers specifically for group interventions in the implementation of cooperative learning reforms.