Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Beyond "My Opinion versus Yours": Supporting Students in Socio-Scientific Argumentation

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Beyond "My Opinion versus Yours": Supporting Students in Socio-Scientific Argumentation

Article excerpt

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013) identify evidence-based argumentation as a key practice in science education (Figure 1, p. 41). This argumentation comes in many forms, each providing a unique theoretical perspective and area of educational research. Argumentation can help model aspects of scientific culture and communities; engage students in the language and norms of science; develop critical-reasoning and justification skills; and coordinate evidence and theory in the science classroom (Erduran and Jimenez-Aleixandre 2008; McNeill and Krajcik 2008; Osborne 2010).


Socio-scientific argumentation and its connections to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Nature of Science.

Connections to the NGSS

* Scientific and Engineering Practice: Engaging in argument from evidence in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

* Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g., economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).

Connections to the Nature of Science

* Science Is a Human Endeavor

* Science is a result of human endeavors, imagination, and creativity.

* Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World

* Science and technology may raise ethical issues for which science, by itself, does not provide answers and solutions.

* Science knowledge indicates what can happen in natural systems--not what should happen. The latter involves ethics, values, and human decisions about the use of knowledge.

* Many decisions are not made using science alone but rely on social and cultural contexts to resolve issues.

An important form of argumentation involves justifying a position on a socio-scientific topic. Socio-scientific issues (SSI) can help students understand how science is situated in, and influenced by, social contexts (Sadler 2004; Simonneaux 2008). Such issues are often controversial; involve competing views; and draw from fields as diverse as biology, ethics, sociology, economics, politics, and law. SSI instruction often uses complex, real-world case studies that don't have easy answers. In this article, we highlight an activities-based curriculum designed to foster socio-scientific argumentation. We also discuss the particular importance of ethical considerations and stakeholder viewpoints in socio-scientific arguments

Bioethics 101 overview

The Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR) is a nonprofit that promotes an understanding of biomedical research through education and dialog. In the last decade, with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, NWABR has developed resources designed to support high school students in developing socio-scientific arguments. These materials provide pedagogical approaches, scaffolds, and structural frameworks (Chowning 2009).

NWABR's approach grew organically from a decision-making framework for students originally developed at the Hasting Center for Bioethics (Jennings et al. 1990; Chowning 2005) and classroom educators' own shared experiences. Bioethics 101, which consists of five lessons and a culminating assessment, is freely available online (see "On the web") and is geared toward grades 9-12. This curriculum supports student argumentation related to socio-scientific issues (Chowning and Griswold 2011). The first few lessons set the stage for understanding ethics and its relation to science, and the last lessons focus on the development of decision-making, reasoning, and analysis skills. …

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