Argument in Science

Argumentation in the Science
Cheryl Dunham
Arizona Department of Education
Explanation and Argumentation
Constructing Explanations
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
The goal of science is the construction of
theories that can provide explanatory
accounts of features of the world. A
theory becomes accepted when it has
been shown to be superior to other
explanations, in the breadth of
phenomena it accounts for, and its
explanatory coherence and parsimony.
Scientific explanations are explicit
applications of theory to a specific
situation or phenomenon, perhaps with
the intermediary of a theory-based model
for the system under study. The goal for
students is to construct logically coherent
explanations of phenomena that
incorporate their current understanding
of science, or a model that represent it,
and are consistent with the available
In science, reasoning and argument, are
essential for identifying the strengths and
weaknesses of a line of reasoning and for
finding the best explanation for a natural
phenomenon. Scientists must defend
their explanations, formulate evidence
based on a solid foundation of data,
examine their own understanding in light
of the evidence and comments offered by
others, and collaborate with peers in
searching for the best explanation for the
phenomena being investigated.
Paraphrase Passport
In your group - after all are done reading.
One person begins by making a comment related to
the topic.
The next person to speak must paraphrase the first
comment before stating their comment. *
After paraphrasing the prior comment, the group
member can add their comment.
Repeat the process (paraphrasing the person before
you and adding your comment) continue for a
predetermined time, or until the topic has been
thoroughly discussed.
* It helps if one person designated to facilitate this process.
Next Generation Science Standards
Connection between
Constructing Explanations and Argument
Practice 6: Constructing
Explanations and
Designing Solutions
Scientific explanations are
conclusions based on
evidence and link theories
to observations or
There are often competing
explanations offered for
the same phenomenondeciding on the best is a
matter of argument.
Practice 7: Engaging in
Argument from Evidence
Scientific arguments are
used to evaluate
competing explanations of
a phenomena, new
theories or solutions to a
technological problem.
Arizona’s Common Core Standards
Arizona Speaking and Listening Standards in Science and Technical Subjects
Comprehension and Collaboration
3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can
follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are
appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Arizona Reading Standards Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the
validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
Arizona Writing Standards Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
Text Types and Purposes
1.Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using
valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Logical discourse to tease out the relationship
between ideas and evidence
Plays a central role in the development,
evaluation, and validation of scientific
knowledge and is an important practice in
science that makes science different from other
ways of knowing.
The situation
that generates
the need for
writing; time
period, location,
current events,
Call to Action
Age, social class, education, past
experience, culture/subculture,
» When used correctly, logical appeals
contain the following elements...
Strong, clear claims
Reasonable qualifiers for claims
Warrants (assumptions) that are valid
Clear reasons for claims
Strong evidence (facts, statistics, personal
experience, expert authority, interviews,
observations, anecdotes)
˃ Acknowledgement of the opposition
» When used poorly, logical
appeals may include…
˃ Over-generalized claims
˃ Reasons that are not fully explained or
˃ Logical fallacies (error in reasoning)
˃ Evidence misused or ignored
˃ No recognition of opposing views
Logical Appeal
- the strategic use
of logic, claims,
and evidence to
convince an
audience of a
certain point.
» When used correctly, the
writer is seen as...
Well-informed about the topic
Confident in his or her position
Sincere and honest
Understanding of the reader's concerns
and possible objections
˃ Humane and considerate
• When used incorrectly, the
writer can be seen as…
– Unfair or dishonest
– Distorting or misrepresenting
information (biased)
– Insulting or dismissive of other
– Advocating intolerant ideas
Ethical Appeal
- establishes the
writer as fair, openminded, honest,
and knowledgeable
about the subject
Emotional Appeal
- targets the
emotions of the
reader to create
some kind of
connection with
the writer.
» When done well, emotional
˃ Reinforce logical arguments
˃ Use diction and imagery to create a bond with the
reader in a human way
˃ Appeal to idealism, beauty, humor, nostalgia, or pity
(or other emotions) in a balanced way
˃ Are presented in a fair manner
• When used improperly,
emotional appeals…
– Become a substitute for logic and reason
– Uses stereotypes to pit one group of people against
– Offers a simple, unthinking reaction to a complex
– Takes advantage of emotions to manipulate (through
fear, hate, pity, prejudice, embarrassment, lust, or
other feelings) rather than convince credibly
Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning
Scientific Argumentation
Process skills include
• Reasoning based on scientific theories,
models, and laws or unifying concepts
• Applying the Nature of Science to develop and
evaluate claims
• Participating in the social processes that shape
how knowledge is communicated,
represented, argued, and debated in science.
Creating a Classroom Community for
Climate that is safe for students to be wrong as
they work toward more complete explanations.
Asking rich questions that have multiple
plausible answers that enable students to
construct knowledge through building
explanations and engaging in argumentation.
Argumentation Session
Sampson,V., Grooms,J., Walker,J., (2009) Argument-Driven Inquiry. The Science Teacher. 76(8), 43-47
Our Community Agreements
In our scientific community,
• We share our observations,
ideas, and explanations.
• We listen to one another and
respond to ideas respectfully.
• We stay focused and
participate thoughtfully.
• We support the participation
of others.
• We expect scientific reasoning
of ourselves and others.
Development of a Lab Based Activity
for Scientific Argumentation
• Identify a researchable question to answer, a
problem to solve, or task to complete
• Generate data from a student developed method
(experiment or systematic observation)
• Produce an explanation that includes a claim,
evidence and their reasoning.
• Critically examine all explanations to determine
the explanation that is most valid or acceptable
Central Framework for both
Scientific Explanations and Arguments
An assertion or conclusion that answers the original
Scientific data that support the claim. The data need to
be appropriate and sufficient to support the claim.
A justification that links the claim and evidence and
shows why the data count as evidence to support the
claim by using the appropriate scientific principles and
theories of a conceptual framework.
9-12 Grade Band Example
Current Arizona Science Standard Strand 5: Physical Science
Concept 3: Conservation of Energy and Increase in Disorder
Understand ways that energy is conserved, stored, and transferred.
Describe the following ways in which energy is stored in a system: mechanical, electrical,
chemical, and nuclear.
Describe various ways in which energy is transferred from one system to another (e.g.,
mechanical contact, thermal conduction, electromagnetic radiation.)
Have students construct explanations on the merits of
energy production using nuclear energy ,solar energy or
fossil fuels. (input/output data, production, and storage
costs about energy production methods. Use
argumentation to evaluate the method that has the most
9-12 Grade Band Example
Current Arizona Science Standard Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 4: Biological Evolution
Understand the scientific principles and processes involved in biological evolution.
Identify the following components of natural selection, which can lead to speciation: potential
for a species to increase its numbers, genetic variability and inheritance of offspring due to
mutation and recombination of genes, finite supply of resources required for life, selection by
the environment of those offspring better able to survive and produce offspring.
Explain how genotypic and phenotypic variation can result in adaptations that influence an
organism’s success in an environment.
How does altruistic behavior affect survival and
reproduction of individuals/populations?
Have students use empirical evidence with reasoning to
develop explanations. Have students engage in argument
to evaluate their explanations.
9-12 Grade Band Example
Current Arizona Science Standard Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 4: Biological Evolution
Understand the scientific principles and processes involved in biological evolution.
Analyze how patterns in the fossil record, nuclear chemistry, geology, molecular biology, and geographical distribution give support to the theory
of organic evolution through natural selection over billions of years and the resulting present day biodiversity.
Concept 3: Interdependence of Organisms
Analyze the relationships among various organisms and their environment.
Describe how organisms are influenced by a particular combination of biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors in an environment.
Current Arizona Science Standard Strand 6: Earth and Space Science
Concept 1: Geochemical Cycles
Analyze the interactions between the Earth’s structures, atmosphere, and geochemical cycles.
Identify ways materials are cycled within the Earth system (i.e., carbon cycle, water cycle, rock cycle).
Concept 2: Energy in the Earth System (Both Internal and External)
Understand the relationships between the Earth’s land masses, oceans, and atmosphere.
Explain the causes and/or effects of climate changes over long periods of time (e.g., glaciation, desertification, solar activity, greenhouse effect).
Investigate the effects of acid rain, smoke, volcanic dust, urban development, and greenhouse gases, on climate change over various periods of
Current Arizona Science Standard Strand 5: Physical Science
Concept 5: Interactions of Energy and Matter
Understand the interactions of energy and matter.
Describe various ways in which matter and energy interact (e.g., photosynthesis, phase change.)
Construct scientific arguments to support the claim that dynamic
causes, effects, and feedbacks among Earth’s systems result in
continual coevolution on the planet and the life that exists on Earth.
Designing Argument Lessons
Step 1: Identify the question and data
Step 2: Imagine the ideal student response
Step 3: Create classroom supports
Step 1: Identify Question and Data
• What question will you ask students?
• Criteria for a “good” question:
– Is the question clear in terms of what claim(s) a
student should provide?
– Is there data the students could use as evidence?
– Is there reasoning students could use to explain
why their evidence supports their claim?
Step 1: Identify Question and Data
What specific data will you either provide
students or have students collect?
Characteristics of data:
Complexity and type of data
Amount of data
Step 2: Imagine the ideal student
• Draft an “ideal” student response
– Does the claim align with the original question?
– Does there seem to be appropriate and sufficient
evidence to use to support the claim?
– Does the question and context provide
opportunities for students to include appropriate
– How complex is the response? What type of
additional support might students need?
Step 3: Create classroom supports
• Visual representations
– E.g. poster
• Curricular scaffolds
– E.g. sentence starters, prompts, etc.
• Activity structures
– E.g. Specific ways to structure instruction such as
time to work in pairs/groups before writing
individually or engaging in a full class debate
CER Graphic Organizer
Evaluation of Written Scientific
General rubric can be adapted to a specific
Krajcik & McNeill: Assessing Middle School Students’ content knowledge and
scientific Reasoning Through Written Explanations, Workshop presented at the
University of Maine, “No Question Left Behind: Bringing Guided Inquiry Curriculum
Materials into the Classroom”, June 24th, 2011
Evaluating an Investigation Report
Students write a report that
explains the goal of the work and
the method used, and provides a
well-reasoned argument.
Double-blind peer review ensures
quality feedback.
Students revise report based on
feedback and then include an
explicit and reflective discussion
about the inquiry.
Sampson,V., Grooms,J., Walker,J.,
(2009) Argument-Driven Inquiry.
The Science Teacher. 76(8), 43-47
Thank You!
K-12 Academic Standards Section
High Academic Standards for Students Division
Arizona Department of Education
Cheryl Dunham
Science Education Program Specialist
Lacey Wieser
Science Education Program Director