Argumentation in Science Teaching

Dr. Sally B. Gutierrez conducts a seminar-workshop on Argumentation in Science Teaching

The application and use of argumentation in science education is gaining ground as an emerging pedagogical tool. Scientific argumentation makes use of evidence to support or refute a claim and justifies the relevance of the evidence used in the course of the argument. Disagreements during argumentation are confined to the claims and evidence presented in the debate. 

To further understand the pedagogical underpinnings of scientific argumentation, Dr. Sally B. Gutierez of the Elementary School Science Workgroup conducted a seminar-workshop titled “Argumentation in Scientific Teaching” on 4 December 2019 at the NISMED conference room. The whole day in-house seminar-workshop, attended by the academic staff of UP NISMED, was conducted to introduce the discipline of argumentation in the teaching-learning process as a strategy for developing scientific thinking at the classroom level. 

Dr. Gutierez explained the theoretical underpinnings and rationale of scientific argumentation and showed a concrete application of argumentation in the classroom: the teacher identifies, sets or draws out the argumentative statement to spark the students’ curiosity and to provide the necessary conditions for them to develop their claims. The argumentative statement may be answered outright, or it can serve as a rhetorical statement that can be answered based on pieces of evidence that come up as concepts are developed during discussion. This aligns with the constructivist theory where students are actively engaged in the construction of their knowledge and reconstruction of their inherently held knowledge arising from their experiences. 

During the generation of their argument or counterargument, the teacher constantly reminds the students of the main issue and claims and the appropriateness of the evidence to support their claim; that is, to keep the discussion within the parameters of evidence and data. The teacher also provides related theories, concepts, and reference materials as tools for generating their argument. 

Towards the end, the teacher asks the students to reflect on what they have understood and how they understood what they have learned. Dr. Gutierez calls this the reflective discussion. In this stage the teacher can ask the students what they have learned about the nature of science. The final stage is when students reconstruct their knowledge as they make their final argument; the teacher must have an assessment tool or rubric to evaluate the soundness of their argument. 

Scientific argumentation may be used as a way of developing students’ critical thinking skills and making students responsible for their own learning. As one approach in promoting an inquiry-based learning environment, the use of scientific argumentation could improve students’ engagement and achievement. 

- R. Tan