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The history of argumentation goes is an intricate one, scientific arguments

Scientific Argumentation

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Introduction

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The history of argumentation goes is an intricate one. It is not a new premise under the sun, but one that was practiced long before modern day laboratories and classrooms came into existence. Historical thinkers such as Aristotle and Plato engaged in argumentation during their time. Myriad domains subsuming politics, world religions, and law have relied on argumentation to validate views. All through the development and advancement of science, argumentation has been a key technique in establishing principles, theories, explanations, as well as models concerning the natural world. Recent discoveries today usually have scientific evidence backing them; otherwise they would never feature in news, articles, journals, or even books as valid (Erduran, Dilek Ardac, & Akmaci-Guzel, 2006). Over time, scientific argumentation has gained popularity, and professions from various fields, especially in academics and writing, have embraced the practice. This essay presents various aspects about scientific argumentation and its place in modern day class environments.

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Arguments and Argumentation

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It is essential to underscore the difference between typical arguments and scientific argumentation. General arguments take place every day among people, but they rarely base facts on proven or tangible evidence. It is rare to find people engaged in serious argument presenting tangible evidence, unless they are in court proceedings, which would require the presentation of objects or witnesses to support various positions. Formal hybrid theory explains this principle better, as it states that arguments depend on “stock of knowledge.” This implies that it is possible for arguments to be based on testimonies and other evidence that attest them, but most of them rely on commonsense knowledge (Bex, 2011). In fact, most arguments depend on current perceptions and attempt to persuade people’s opinions about various aspects of life (Billig, 1996). It is unimaginable what damage such modes of presenting claims can do to education or other areas that require irrefutable proof. Of course, good arguments persuade people to act, often in a desired manner, but in science and education, such are not permissible, except in areas such as literature and arts.

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Argumentation, on the other hand, stems from scientific inquiry and presents claims that have observable evidence. Scientists usually make claims, just like normal conversations do, but they base theirs on observable evidence. Moreover, scientists elucidate their claims further by using justifications, which reflects the relevance of the evidence attached to the claims (Duschl & Osborne, 2008). In other instances, scientists present rebuttal claims, directing audiences to alternate evidence that refutes claims and evidence made in previous studies (Luft, Bell, & Gess-Newsome, 2008). The important points are argumentations emanate from observable investigations or empirical evidence, which must go through justification to prove connections with the claims. In recent times, scientific argumentation has claimed the attention of students. Students have developed a need to present arguments that have the capability to compete with opposing views. However, it is important to note that all the characteristics of argumentation prevail, even in classrooms (Leema K. Berland & Hammer, 2012).

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It is clear from the above explanations that argumentation differs from arguments significantly. Arguments involve pejorative application of words to present confrontational connotations. However, argumentation is more than that, as it involves justifying claims by relating them to data, which acts as its foundation. Evidences used in argumentative claims subsume at least two elements: data and warrants. Data refers to the values collected through observation, experimentation, or any other method of scientific inquiry while warrants are fundamentally the means used to relate the data to the claims leading to their justification. For instance, the claim that multifariousness of species is a result of random diversification and selection by the surroundings was backed originally by data gathered by Darwin on the myriad beaks of finches in the Galapagos. The warrant involved the competitive advantage that arose from each discovered species that ensured their survival on a specific environment (Osborne, Erduran, Simon, & Monk, 2001).

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The difference between arguments and argumentation does not end with scientific inquiry. Prakken (2011) attempted to distinguish between dialogue arguments and inferential arguments. In inferential arguments, which are similar to argumentation, the researcher stated that claims are usually backed by numerous grounds. These grounds may further rest on additional grounds. Rules that define this arguments entail logic. In the other form of arguments, people attempt to puzzle out claims or resolve conflicts through verbal interaction. Such arguments do not call for strict rules, but base on dialogue theory. Normally, argumentation entails logic based arguments, as they support or attack claims through counterarguments and explicit claims (Prakken, 2011). This implies that argumentation skills are important if people are to support or refute claims that emerge in today’s world, which is highly evolving because of scientific findings and inventions. Societies and individuals have to make decisions on a daily basis, without going against ethics. Using logic based arguments also presents numerous benefits to classroom settings where learning requires in-depth analysis of various aspects in a methodical manner (Osborne et al., 2001). Therefore, noting the difference between the two, argument and argumentation, and fostering the use of argumentation in classroom settings is highly important.

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Argumentation in Science Teaching

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Over the past decades, major shifts have been taking place in science education in light of science literacy. These shifts are changing the goals of science education and teaching practices I the classroom. Efforts to reform methods of teaching science have been seen in various places such as the United States and Europe (AAAS, 1989). Now, educational requirements see the need for learners to develop comprehension of issues such as the relevance of evidence in the field of science, influences of science, and cultural issues in science. In addition to that, educational frameworks are after improving the understanding of students on the limitations and strengths of scientific inquiry (NRC, 1996). This is essential in improving pragmatic skills and conceptual understanding among students. Ensuring students delve in the deep understanding through scientific inquiry augments awareness of essential knowledge as well as the reasons as to why such awareness is essential (R. Duschl, 2008). Therefore, there is a need for educators in science fields to ensure they use epistemic practices that emulate scientific characteristics.

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Literature on teaching sciences shows that the structures, as well as the processes of learning, are currently more nuanced than before (Boekaerts, 1999; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2004; McNeill, 2009). This is in contrast with previous behavioral learning and associative theories. In addition to that, the content and context of knowledge in the field have changed greatly. Therefore, there is an overall incline towards development of practices and reasoning that is domain specific while teaching practices are moving away from skill development and general reasoning. Domain-specific reasoning and richer comprehension of learning have substantial implications for the design of learning environments and pedagogical models (Bao et al., 2009). Pedagogical models designed by domain-specific reasoning allow students to learn methods of constructing and evaluating proof based arguments. Further, students learn a lot from argument frameworks that help them understand what is valid as evidence in their field.

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Besides servings as ideal pedagogical models and improving understanding, argumentation in science based teaching presents various cognitive benefits. Argumentation carries with it social and cognitive benefits and benefits students when such teachings are included in teaching. From the perspective of cognitive benefits, students who take use argumentation depict improvements in their thinking processes, which develop fully through public reasoning (Billig, 1996). In addition to that, scientific argumentations lead to improved thinking, reasoning, and inferences. Inferences refer to the development of new ideas from old ones, and takes place in the unconscious mind as one grows and develops. In contrast, thinking refers to the advancement of inferences involving deliberate actions by a person. Therefore, lessons that include argumentation should require students to take part in discussions, in sizeable groups. Constant engagement in these practices of teaching ensures that students develop inferential, reasoning, and thinking skills, which also increases their learning and education in general.

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Literature Review on Teachers and Argumentation

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A notion of science as a form of argument has attracted massive attention in schools, especially in science education. Bricker and Becker (2009) have since identified argumentation in science classes as a core epistemic method and assert that science education should never neglect that practice, but learn how to best engage students in students in scientific discourse (Bricker & Bell, 2009). Taking this into consideration, true learning, especially in sciences occurs when teachers gain an articulate and empirically backed model that highlights the essential skills gained through argumentation (Kuhn, 2010a). Resnick, O’Connor, and Michaels (2008) depict such an educational model of skilled teaching and learning as subsuming an “accountable talk” in which shared norms of thinking guides the discourse that takes place in class (Michaels, O’Connor, & Resnick, 2008). A clear understanding by teachers of the argumentation models affects what they know about the mode of discourse in classes.

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Despite the understanding of the models and their importance by teachers, however, the available literature depicts that science teachers rarely engage students in argumentation during teaching (Weiss, Banilower, & McMahon, 2001). The two factors behind the slow adoption of argumentation in teaching sciences, as illustrated by literature, are limited instructional resources and low pedagogical knowledge (Simon, Erduran, & Osborne, 2006). However, other hindrances that make the consolidation of argumentation into the science classroom hard may be present. In some cases, for instances, teachers do not encourage students to assess alternative elucidations or develop arguments that are based on evidence because they regard science as a compendium of knowledge to learn or because they perceive argumentation is a weak method of helping students achieve learning goals. It might also prove hard for teachers to support argumentation in the classroom settings because they do not have specific knowledge and skills on how to take part in scientific argumentation. In addition to that, some do not understand or see any difference between arguments and argumentation (Leema Kuhn Berland & Reiser, 2009). These elucidations appear reasonable given the huge amount of literature that posits that teachers in the science field tend to place their focus on arguments and mostly have little understanding on the characterization of science or the methodologies of scientific inquiry (Schwartz, Lederman, & Judith, 2008). Science teachers, thus, ought to learn more regarding what teachers who are practicing argumentation know and think about the motions to incorporate argumentation into learning as well as teaching science.

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It is, therefore, pertinent to know what makes an ideal teacher or what qualities make students remember their professors long after they complete their studies. The solution to such question is simple; it is not what professors or teachers do, but what they comprehend. Lecture notes and plans, according to Livingston (2008), do not matter as much as the unique manner lecturers understand the subject area and value students’ learning. Whether physicists or biologists, in the UK or the US, the best tutors are familiar with their area of speciality inside out, however, they also need to understand how to challenge and engage students. Proper techniques of challenging and engaging students often incite impassioned responses leading to a deeper understanding about the subject. Importantly, they trust that teaching is important and that students have the capacity to learn. In narrations both touching and funny, (Bain, 2011) illuminates illustrations of compassion as well as ingenuity, of learners’ insights of novel concepts and depths of their personal potential. It is clear those teachers who know how to teach in class, or apply argumentation, are like hidden treasure of inspiration for students (Livingston, 2008).

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Misconceptions of Pre-Service Teachers

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With varying instruments as well as methods, literature posits that most pre-service science teachers do not have adequate comprehension of the Nature of Science (NOS). Their understanding of argumentation as a method of teaching science is mixed, incoherent, and fluid. Additionally, there is an important association between the academic background of teachers in the science field or personal experiences in school and their understandings of NOS. Literature shows that for teachers to deliver adequately in class they need to have professional training and development. Pre-service teachers lack this professional development that can revolutionize their practices in class (McNeill & Knight, 2011). Therefore, these teachers rarely focus on methods that regard evidence, argumentation, or explanation majorly. One cannot expect teacher who does not have robust understandings of argumentation techniques or methods of scientific inquiry to incorporate such methods in class.

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Current research shows that argumentation prevails in classroom settings where teachers have a sense of ownership. In cases where teachers do not have knowledge on scientific inquiry, argumentation does not exist. It is clear that pre-service teachers lack the required skills to ensure that they can employ argumentation in classes. In addition to that, pre-service teachers do not have the ownership that serves as a central characteristic of the process of scientific inquiry. It thus becomes hard for these teachers to adapt, change, or develop concepts to their personal contexts, and if need be, change ideas to their aim, implementation, or function (McNeill & Knight, 2011). The bottom line, thus, is that pre-service teachers’ misconception of scientific inquiry limits them from applying argumentation in teaching.

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Obstacles

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In science lessons, teachers and students alike meet myriad challenges in applying scientific inquiry. Students face difficulties in examining scientific arguments and forming opposition in existing points of view. Often, students assume that arguments have two opposing sides. However, scientific inquiry usually goes further and includes more than simple oppositions, to include what philosophy and social scientists refer to as knowledge construction and coalescent argumentation (Kuhn, 2010b). Such entitles go beyond plain oppositions, and students need to recognize them as educational objectives that are an essential aspect of their educational progression.

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Argumentation is also a growing, but young, field that has not developed firm roots in science education. This implies that teachers face problems when it comes to the relevant pedagogical strategies and tools that can help them in designing and assessing scientific arguments. For instance, teachers ought to have a better comprehension of proper strategies that they can apply in class while presenting and reporting enquiry investigations. These strategies should be able to encourage and engage students in arguments. Perhaps an even bigger barrier is the demanding characteristic of science, which troubles students (Duschl & Osborne, 2008). Thus, the limited knowledge that science teachers and students have limits them from employing and taking advantage of argumentation.

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Conclusion

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This essay shows that argumentation is an important technique that can profit students greatly. As opposed to mere arguments, argumentation involves the application of evidence to ascertain claims. The practice has been featuring in classrooms, especially scientific lessons, over the recent past. Although argumentation is essential, pre-service teachers have little or no knowledge of scientific inquiry limiting them greatly from applying the practice in class. Students also face myriad challenges that vary from poor understanding of the arguments in science to inefficient classroom environments that support scientific inquiry limiting the quality of their education.

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References

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Bain, K. (2011). What the Teachers in the Best Colleges Do. Harvard University Press.

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Bao, L., Cai, T., Koenig, K., Fang, K., Han, J., Wang, J., … Wu, N. (2009). Learning and Scientific Reasoning. Science, 323, 586–587. doi:10.1126/science.1167740

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Berland, L. K., & Hammer, D. (2012). Framing for scientific argumentation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49, 68–94. doi:10.1002/tea.20446

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Berland, L. K., & Reiser, B. J. (2009). Making Sense of Argumentation and Explanation. Science Education, 93, 26–55. doi:10.1002/sce.20286

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Bex, F. J. (2011). Arguments, Criminal Evidence, and Stories: A Formal Hybrid Theory. Springer.

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Billig, M. (1996). Arguing and Thinking: A Rhetorical Methodology to Social Psychology. Cambridge University Press.

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Boekaerts, M. (1999). Self-regulated learning: Where We Are Today. International Journal of Educational Research, 31, 445–457. doi:10.1016/S0883-0355(99)00014-2

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Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2004). How People Learn (p. 385). Washington DC: National Academy Press.

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Bricker, L., & Bell, P. (2009). Conceptualizations of Argumentation from Science Studies and the Learning sciences. Science Education, 92, 473–498.

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Duschl, R. (2008). Science Education in Three-Part Harmony: Balancing Conceptual, Epistemic, and Social Learning Goals. Review of Research in Education, 32(1), 268–291. doi:10.3102/0091732X07309371

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Duschl, R. A., & Osborne, J. (2008). Studies in Science Education Supporting and Promoting Argumentation Discourse in Science Education, (June 2012), 37–41.

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Erduran, S., Dilek Ardac, & Akmaci-Guzel, B. Y. (2006). Learning to Teach Argumentation. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and T Echnology Education, 2(2), 1–12.

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Kuhn, D. (2010a). Teaching and learning science as argument. Science Education, 94(5), 810–824. doi:10.1002/sce.20395

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Livingston, W. G. (2008). What the Best College Teachers Do. Journal of College and Character. doi:10.2202/1940-1639.1184

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Luft, J., Bell, R. L., & Gess-Newsome, J. (2008). Science as Inquiry in the Secondary Setting. NSTA Press.

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McNeil, K. L. (2009). Teachers’ use of curriculum to support students in writing scientific arguments to explain phenomena. Science Education, 93, 233–268. doi:10.1002/sce.20294

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Mcneill, K. L., & Knight, A. M. (2011). The Effect of Professional Development on Teachers’ Beliefs and Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Scientific Argumentation. (p. 27). Orlando FL.

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Michaels, S., O’Connor, C., & Resnick, L. (2008). Deliberative Discourse Idealized and Realized: Accountable talk in the Classroom and in Civic Life. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 27, 283–297.

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Osborne, J., Erduran, S., Simon, S., & Monk, M. (2001). Enhancing the Quality of Argument in School Science. School Science Review, 82(301), 63–9.

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Prakken, H. (2011). Argumentation Without Arguments. Argumentation. doi:10.1007/s10503-011-9208-9

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Schwartz, R. S. ., Lederman, N. G. ., & Judith, S. (2008). An Instrument To Assess Views Of Scientific Inquiry : The VOSI Questionnaire Paper available at : http://homepages.wmich.edu/~rschwart. Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 1–24. Retrieved from http://homepages.wmich.edu/~rschwart/

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Simon, S., Erduran, S., & Osborne, J. (2006). Learning to Teach Argumentation: Research and Development in the Science Classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 28(2&3), 235–260.

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Weiss, I., Banilower, E., & McMahon, K. (2001). The 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education (p. 27). Chapel Hill.

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