Argumentation in Science Education

Volume 35 of the series Science & Technology Education Library pp 71-88

What Can Argumentation Tell Us About Epistemology?

  • William A. SandovalAffiliated withGraduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA
  • , Kelli A. MillwoodAffiliated withMetiri Group

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Who, besides scientists, engages in what we would call scientific argumentation? When? for what purpose? As calls for argumentation to take a central place in science instruction increase (Driver et al., 2000; Duschl & Osborne, 2002; Kuhn, 1993b), answers to these questions become more important. There are two key claims for engaging students in scientific argumentation. One is that argumentation is a central practice of science, and thus should be at the core of science education. The other is that understanding the norms of scientific argumentation can lead students to understand the epistemological bases of scientific practice. We are more interested in this second claim. We think it unlikely that people who do not practice science are likely to engage in truly scientific argumentation. At the same time, we see everyday contexts all around us where people might apply scientific arguments to further other kinds of arguments. For example, using arguments about global climate change to argue for or against particular energy policies or even personal consumer decisions.