Research in Science Education

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 17–39 | Cite as

Argumentation and Primary Science

Research Article


The importance of argumentation in science education is outlined and the relatively low level of argumentation typically observed in classrooms in the UK is noted, along with possible reasons for this. The research sets out to determine the extent to which primary school pupils engage in argumentation and to characterise their arguments in primary science lessons. A provisional framework is developed for analysing argumentation in this setting. Transcripts of pupils arguing are used to illustrate how pupils co-construct arguments without teacher intervention or guidance. A number of factors which appear to influence argumentation are noted.

Key words

analytical framework argumentation co-construction concept cartoons primary science 


  1. Alexopoulou, E., & Driver, R. (1996). Small-group discussion in physics: Peer interaction modes in pairs and fours. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(10): 1099–1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrews, R., Costello, P., & Clarke, S. (1993). Improving the quality of argument 5–16: Final Report. Hull, UK: Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust/University of Hull.Google Scholar
  3. Billig, M. (1987). Arguing and thinking: A rhetorical approach to social psychology. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cazden, C. (1988). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning. New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  5. Costello, P. (2000). Thinking skills and early childhood education. London: David Fulton.Google Scholar
  6. Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5–12.Google Scholar
  7. Duschl, R., Ellenbogen, E., & Erduran, S. (1999, April). Understanding dialogic argumentation among middle school science students. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada.Google Scholar
  8. Feasey, R. (1998). Effective questioning in science. In R. Sherrington (Ed.), ASE guide to primary science education (pp. 156–167). Hatfield, UK: ASE/Stanley Thornes.Google Scholar
  9. Fleer, M., & Robbins, J. (2001, July). Hit and run research with hit and miss results in early childhood science education. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Australasian Science Education Research Association, Sydney, Australia.Google Scholar
  10. Jimenez-Aleixandre, M. P., Rodriguez, A. B., & Duschl, R. (2000). “Doing the lesson” or “doing science”: Argument in high school genetics. Science Education, 84, 757–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Keogh, B., & Naylor, S. (1999). Concept cartoons, teaching and learning in science: An evaluation. International Journal of Science Education, 21(4), 431–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kinchin, I. (2000). Concept mapping activities to help students understand photosynthesis – and teachers understand students. School Science Review, 82(299), 11–14.Google Scholar
  13. Kuhn, T. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kuhn, D. (1992). Thinking as argument. Harvard Educational Review, 62, 155–178.Google Scholar
  15. Kuhn, D., Shaw, V., & Felton, M. (1997). Effects of dyadic interaction on argumentative reasoning. Cognition and Instruction, 15(3), 287–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mercer, N., Wegerif, R., & Dawes, L. (1999). Children's talk and the development of reasoning in the classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 25(1), 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Millar, L., & Murdoch, J. (2002). A penny for your thoughts. Primary Science Review, 72, 26–29.Google Scholar
  18. Millar, R., & Osborne, J. (1998). Beyond 2000: Science education for the future. London: Kings College, London.Google Scholar
  19. Naylor, S., & Keogh, B. (2000). Concept cartoons in science education. Sandbach, UK: Millgate House Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Naylor, S., Downing, B., & Keogh, B. (2001, August). An empirical study of argumentation in primary science, using concept cartoons as the stimulus. Paper presented at the European Science Education Research Association Conference, Thessaloniki, Greece.Google Scholar
  21. Newton, P., Driver, R., & Osborne, J. (1999). The place of argumentation in the pedagogy of school science. International Journal of Science Education, 21(5), 553–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nott, M., & Smith, R. (1995). ‘Talking your way out of it’, ‘rigging’ and ‘conjuring’: What science teachers do when practical work goes wrong. International Journal of Science Education, 17(3), 399–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ogborn, J., Kress, G., Martins, I., & McGillicuddy, K. (1996). Explaining Science in the Classroom. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Simon, S., Erduran, S., & Osborne, J. (2002, March). Enhancing the quality of argumentation in school science. Paper presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, USA.Google Scholar
  25. Solomon, J. (1992). The classroom discussion of science-based social issues presented on television: Knowledge, attitudes and values. International Journal of Science Education, 14(4), 431–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Solomon, J. (1998). About argument and discussion. School Science Review, 80(291), 57–62.Google Scholar
  27. Swann, J. (1992). Girls, boys and language. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  28. Toulmin, S. (1958). The uses of argument. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Wellington, J., & Osborne, J. (2001). Language and literacy in science education. Buckingham, UK: Open University.Google Scholar
  30. Yip, D. Y. (2001). Promoting the development of a conceptual change model of science instruction in prospective secondary biology teachers. International Journal of Science Education, 23(7), 755–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationManchester Metropolitan UniversityCheshireUK

Personalised recommendations