This study investigated the effects of students’ prior science knowledge and online learning approaches (social and individual) on their learning with regard to three topics: science concepts, inquiry, and argumentation. Two science teachers and 118 students from 4 eighth-grade science classes were invited to participate in this research. Students in each class were divided into three groups according to their level of prior science knowledge; they then took either our social- or individual-based online science learning program. The results show that students in the social online argumentation group performed better in argumentation and online argumentation learning. Qualitative analysis indicated that the students’ social interactions benefited the co-construction of sound arguments and the accurate understanding of science concepts. In constructing arguments, students in the individual online argumentation group were limited to knowledge recall and self-reflection. High prior-knowledge students significantly outperformed low prior-knowledge students in all three aspects of science learning. However, the difference in inquiry and argumentation performance between low and high prior-knowledge students decreased with the progression of online learning topics.
- Social and individual online argumentation