- Third grader Tyrell states his case for why the Sun is necessary for us to have cheese in the world.
- Aisha will explain to you how she knows that the Moon is waxing and not waning.
- Joseph draws upon past observations to argue that his shadow will look different at different times of day.
These students and their teacher are engaging in Scientific Argumentation as part of their science learning. Engaging in Argument from Evidence is Practice 7 in the Science and Engineering Practices dimension of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Scientific Argumentation is a way of reaching agreements and designing solutions. It is important for students to practice so that they understand the world of scientists and how they communicate to arrive at consensus. In addition, the practice of Argumentation supports the development of citizens who are better able to evaluate the validity of science-related topics in the media and in their own lives. Students are expected to listen to, compare, and evaluate competing ideas to make their own decisions on scientific truths. It should be noted that the criteria for engineering decisions could be different than those for science. Engineers have to consider such things as cost-effectiveness, risk, aesthetics, and marketing.
There are social benefits to Scientific Argumentation. It requires courage for a student to assert their opinions, especially if they are in the minority. They must be skeptical, they must listen carefully, they must be open to changing their viewpoint, and they must learn not to take disagreement personally. Teachers need to listen carefully to their students and exploit opportunities of differing ideas when they arise. Last week, a teacher switched gears in her lesson to take advantage of students’ disagreements about rock origins. She lined the students up on opposite sides of the room and they engaged in a discourse on the subject.
Some sentence frames that students have been using are the following:
I think ________________ because ______________________.
I agree with____(name)____ because _____________________.
I changed my viewpoint because ____(name)___ said _______.
Classroom teachers are encouraged to incorporate scientific argumentation with their students. Unless you practice this explicitly with your students, they may not have the opportunity to develop those skills. Keep in mind that it requires consistent practice for the students to become proficient at Argumentation.
- Ideas, Evidence and Argument in Science Resource Pack developed by Dr. Jonathan Osborne of Stanford (requires a free registration)
- Find Grade-Level Resources for Argumentation on the SFUSD Humanities website (under Spiral 3)
- Use Paige Keeley's Uncovering Student Ideas in Science to promote scientific argument
- The SFUSD AVID website has examples on how to arrange Socratic Seminars which can be used to promote argumentation in science