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Integrating Scientific Argumentation into Your Classroom Using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Framework

What is scientific argumentation?

Argumentation is central to a professional scientist’s practice, as scientists must make a claim to explain observed scientific phenomena, collect evidence and data to support their claim, and provide logical reasoning to justify their proposed idea. Other scientists will then attempt to identify the flaws and limitations of the claim. This process leads to the creation of new scientific ideas and theories (National Research Council, 2012).

Why is scientific argumentation important in the classroom?

The 2015 Alabama Course of Study for Science requires that students begin the practice of scientific argumentation in third grade and advance in this skill during later grade levels. It is important for students to begin engaging in this practice at a young age in order to become a “critical consumer of science” as an adult (National Research Council, 2012, pg. 72). Younger elementary school students can practice this skill by creating an argument based on their interpretation of scientific phenomena and provide evidence from investigations completed in the classroom. As students progress to higher grade levels, they should be encouraged to examine their claims and others’ claims, to determine the potential weaknesses and limitations. Engaging in this practice encourages students to think critically about scientific concepts, which leads to a deeper and more meaningful understanding (National Research Council, 2012). 

How can I introduce this practice in my science classroom?

According to the National Research Council (2012), introducing scientific argumentation from a historical perspective can give students the opportunity to identify the claim, evidence, and reasoning of professional scientists. I’ve used this technique with sixth-grade students to reinforce the practice of scientific argumentation. After studying Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift, I asked students to identify Wegener’s scientific claim and the three main pieces of evidence that supported his idea. Next, I asked students to identify Wegener’s scientific reasoning that would explain how and why the continents moved. After studying Wegener’s theory and its lack of support during its introduction in the early 1900s, the students were able to infer that Wegener’s theory was not accepted by the scientific community because he was not able to provide logical reasoning. In other words, although Wegener could make a scientific claim and provide evidence, he was not able to explain how or why the continents moved over time. In my experience with providing instruction on scientific argumentation, students often struggle with developing reasoning to support their claims and evidence. The activity related to Alfred Wegener helped emphasize the importance of scientific reasoning when developing a logical argument.

Where can I find resources to use in my classroom?

Incorporating this practice into your classroom may seem overwhelming at first; fortunately, there are many resources available to help you introduce this practice to your students. You can start off by visiting the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX) to find lessons that relate to your grade level’s standards that apply to scientific argumentation. If you are interested in learning more information about incorporating this practice in your classroom, visit Katherine McNeill’s website, the author of two books that support teachers in integrating the claim, evidence, reasoning framework into their science classrooms. 

National Research Council. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. 2012. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Accessed June 2017