Why Teach Argumentation in Science?

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copyright David Dudley

Why do we believe:

  • That day and night are caused by a spinning Earth rather than a moving Sun?
  • That the continents were once one?
  • Or that you look like your parents because every cell in your body carries a chemically coded blueprint about how to reproduce you? 

All of these seemingly unbelievable ideas are based on carefully crafted arguments from evidence.

Watch Jonathan Osborne summarizing these arguments in this video clip.

Students need to see that ideas in science are based on evidence-based arguments. This is what makes science distinctive. The figure below shows that there are 3 spheres of activity to science. 

  • One on the left of observation, investigation and data collection
  • On the right, imagining new theories and making predictions
  • And then in the middle, arguing about what the data mean, what is the best design for an experiment/field study and whether the data support the theories.
green spheres

Source: A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (Figure 3-1)