RiSE Center Colloquium – Hannah Webber

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education


Monday, March 19, 2012
3:00-4:00 PM
Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

Evidence of the argument: Using student posters to investigate the strength of student ability to present a scientific argument

Hannah Webber and Bill Zoellick, SERC Institute; Sarah Nelson, Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research; Beth Bisson, Maine Sea Grant


Reporting on research is the telling of a logical, evidence-backed story. The strength of the story hinges on the logic of the argument and the presentation of the supporting data. Students participating in Acadia Learning’s Mercury in Watersheds project report on their own research in research poster symposia. The poster session comes at the end of a partnered Scientist-Teacher-Student research project that guides High School students through their own investigations- asking questions, proposing possible answers, planning investigations, interpreting data, constructing arguments from the evidence and, finally, communicating results. What can an analysis of the posters tell us about the students’ ability to construct an evidence-backed story? Are the stories logical? Do the data support the argument? This presentation will give a brief overview of the Acadia Learning project, will share a framework that we are using to analyze four years of student posters and will present some early data using the framework. This is a progress report- encouraging discussion among colleagues as we refine ways to evaluate student presentation of research stories and use the evaluation to better the scaffolding necessary to guide the development of an evidence-backed story.


Hannah Webber manages the “Mercury in Watersheds” project for SERC Institute. Project management includes developing teacher workshops and interviewing project teachers. She uses interview responses, workshop feedback, teacher requests for information and student artifacts to refine project materials and processes. She is currently working with scientists and educators to develop two new Scientist-Teacher-Student Partnership programs for SERC Institute: “Nitrogen Cycling in Watersheds” and “Culverts and Stream Ecology”. Ms. Webber has taught kindergarteners to adults in a variety of formal and informal education programs, including a term as Interim Director of Fields Pond Audubon Center. She has also been on research teams investigating behavioral effects of methylmercury; genetic bases of wound healing; and the effects of PCBs on stream macroinvertebrate communities.