Research in Science Education

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 17–38 | Cite as

Factors Affecting the Implementation of Argument in the Elementary Science Classroom. A Longitudinal Case Study

  • Anita M. MartinEmail author
  • Brian Hand


This longitudinal case study describes the factors that affect an experienced teacher’s attempt to shift her pedagogical practices in order to implement embedded elements of argument into her science classroom. Research data was accumulated over 2 years through video recordings of science classes. The Reformed Teacher Observation Protocol (RTOP) is an instrument designed to quantify changes in classroom environments as related to reform as defined by the National Research Council (National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996b) and the National Research Council (Fulfilling the promise: Biology education in the nation’s schools, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1990) and was used to analyze videotaped science lessons. Analysis of the data shows that there was a significant shift in the areas of teacher questioning, and student voice. Several levels of subsequent analysis were completed related to teacher questioning and student voice. The data suggests a relationship between these areas and the implementation of scientific argument. Results indicate that the teacher moved from a traditional, teacher-centered, didactic teaching style to instructional practices that allowed the focus and direction of the lesson to be affected by student voice. This was accomplished by a change in teacher questioning that included a shift from factual recall to more divergent questioning patterns allowing for increased student voice. As student voice increased, students began to investigate ideas, make statements or claims and to support these claims with strong evidence. Finally, students were observed refuting claims in the form of rebuttals. This study informs professional development related to experienced teachers in that it highlights pedagogical issues involved in implementing embedded elements of argument in the elementary classroom.


Embedded elements of argument Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) Student voice Teacher questioning 


  1. Abell, S. K., Anderson, G., & Chezem, J. (2000). Science as argument and explanation: Exploring concepts of sound in third grade. In J. Minstrell, & E. H. van Zee (Eds.) Inquiring into inquiry learning and teaching in science (pp. 65–79). Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Andrews, R., Costello, P., & Clarke, S. (1993). Improving the quality of argument, Final Report pp. 5–16. Hull, UK: Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust/University of Hull.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, J., Czerniak, C., & Lumpe, A. (2000). An exploratory study of teacher’s beliefs regarding the implementation of constructivism in their classrooms. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 11, 323–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bereiter, C., Scardamalia, M., Cassells, C., & Hewitt, J. (1997). Postmodernism, knowledge building and elementary science. Elementary School Journal, 97, 329–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bloom, B. S., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: Longmans, Green.Google Scholar
  7. Bright, P., & Yore, L. (2002). Elementary preservice teacher’s beliefs about the nature of science and their influence on classroom practice. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA. (ED46182)Google Scholar
  8. Carlsen, W. S. (1997). Never ask a question if you don’t know the answer: Tension in teaching between modeling scientific argument and maintaining law and order. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 32(2), 14–23.Google Scholar
  9. Cobb, P., & Bauersfeld, H. (1995). The emergence of mathematical meaning: Interaction in classroom cultures.Studies in mathematical thinking and learning series. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Crawford, B. A. (2000). Embracing the essence of inquiry: New roles for science teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 916–937.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 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
  12. Driver, R., Newton, P., & Osborne, J. (2000). Establishing the norms of scientific argumentation in classrooms. Science Education, 84, 287–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duschl, R. A. (2003). Assessment of inquiry. In J. M. Atkin, & J. E. Coffey (Eds.) Everyday assessment in the science classroom (pp. 41–59). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.Google Scholar
  14. Duschl, R.A., & Ellenbogen, K. (2002). Argumentation processes in science learning. Paper presented at the conference on Philosophical, Psychological, and Linguistic Foundations for Language and Science Literacy Research, University of Victoria, BC, Canada.Google Scholar
  15. Duschl, R., Ellenbogen, K., & Erduran, S. (1999). Understanding dialogic argumentation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of American Educational Research Association, Montreal, QC, Canada.Google Scholar
  16. Eduran, S., Simon, S., & Osborne, J. (2004). TAPping into argumentation: Developments in the application of Toulmin et al.’s argument pattern for studying science discourse. Science Education, 88, 915–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ernest, P. (1998). Social constructivism as a philosophy of mathematics. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  18. Fu, D., & Shelton, N. R. (2002). Teaching collaboration between a university professor and a classroom teacher. Teaching Education, 13(1), 91–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Furman, M., & Barton, A. (2006). Capturing urban student voices in the creation of a science mini-documentary. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43, 667–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goodnough, K. (2006). Enhancing pedagogical content knowledge through self-study: An exploration of problem-based learning. Teaching in Higher Education, 11, 301–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hand, B., Norton-Meier, L., Gunel, M., & Akkus, R. (2005). K-6 Science Writing Heuristic Project: An MSP project funded by the Iowa Department of Education. Presentation to The Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines, IA.Google Scholar
  22. Hand, B., Wallace, C. W., & Yang, E. (2004). Using a science writing heuristic to enhance learning outcomes from laboratory activities in seventh-grade science: Quantitative and qualitative aspects. International Journal of Science Education, 26(2), 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Handelsman, J., Ebert-May, D., Beichner, R., Bruns, P., Chang, A., & DeHaan, R. (2004). Scientific teaching. Science, 304, 521–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hogan, K., & Maglienti, M. (2001). Comparing the epistemological underpinnings of students’ and scientists’ reasoning about conclusions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 663–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jeanpierre, B., Oberhauser, K., & Freeman, C. (2005). Characteristics of professional development that effect change in secondary science teachers’ classroom practices. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 668–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kelly, G. J., & Chen, C. (1999). The sound of music: Constructing science as sociocultural practices through oral and written discourse. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, 883–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kitchener, K. S., & Fischer, K. W. (1990). A skill approach to the development of reflective thinking. In D. Kuhn (Ed.) Developmental perspectives on teaching and learning thinking skills: Vol. 21 (pp. 48–62). New York: Karger.Google Scholar
  28. Kuhn, T. E. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kuhn, T. E. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kuhn, D. (1992). Thinking as argument. Harvard Educational Review, 62, 155–178.Google Scholar
  31. Kuhn, D. (1993). Science as argument. Science Education, 77, 319–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kuhn, D., & Dean Jr., D. (2005). Is developing scientific thinking all about learning to control variables? Psychological Science, 16, 866–870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lawson, A., Benford, R., Bloom, I., Carlson, M., Falconer, K., Hestenes, D., et al. (2002). Evaluating college science and mathematics instruction: A reform effort that improves teaching skills. Journal of College Science Teaching, 31, 388–93.Google Scholar
  34. Lapadat, J. (2000). Construction of science knowledge: Scaffolding conceptual change through discourse. Journal of Classroom Interactions, 35(2), 1–14.Google Scholar
  35. Lapadat, J. (2002). Relationships between instructional language and primary students’ learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 278–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lederman, N. G., & Niess, M. L. (2000). Problem solving and solving problems: Inquiry about inquiry. School Science and Mathematics, 100, 113–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lemke, J. (1990). Talking science: Language, learning, and values. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  38. Lew, L. (2001). Development of constructivist’s behaviors among four new science teachers prepared at the University of Iowa. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa, Iowa City.Google Scholar
  39. Luykx, A., & Lee, O. (2007). Measuring instructional congruence in elementary science classrooms: Pedagogical and methodological components of a theoretical framework. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 424–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Macbeth, D. (2003). Hugh Mehan’s Learning Lessons reconsidered: On the differences between the naturalistic and critical analysis of classroom discourse. American Educational Research Journal, 40, 239–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. MacIsaac, D., & Falconer, K. (2002). Reforming physics education via RTOP. The Physics Teacher, 40, 479–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McGinn, M., & Roth, W. -M. (1999). Preparing students for competent scientific practice: Implications of recent research in science and technology studies. Educational Researcher, 28(3), 14–24.Google Scholar
  43. Mehan, H. (1979). Learning lessons: Social organization in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Mercer, N., Dawes, L., Wegerif, R., & Sams, C. (2004). Reasoning as a scientist: Ways of helping children to use language to learn science. British Educational Research Journal, 30, 359–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mercer, N., Wegerif, R., & Dawes, L. (1999). Children’s talk and the development of reasoning in the classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 25, 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Millar, R., & Osborne, J. (1998). Beyond 2000: Science education for the future. London: King’s College London.Google Scholar
  47. National Research Council (1990). Fulfilling the promise: Biology education in the nation’s schools. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  48. National Research Council (1996a). The role of scientists in the professional development of science teachers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  49. National Research Council (1996b). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  50. National Research Council (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  51. Naylor, S., Keogh, B., & Downing, B. (2007). Argumentation and primary science. Research in Science Education, 37, 17–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Newman, W., Abell, S., Hubbard, P., McDonald, J., Otaala, J., & Martini, M. (2004). Dilemmas of teaching inquiry in elementary science methods. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 15, 257–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Newton, P., Driver, R., & Osborne, J. (1999). The place of argumentation in the pedagogy of school science. International Journal of Science Education, 21, 553–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Norris, S. P., & Phillips, L. M. (2003). How literacy in its fundamental sense is central to scientific literacy. Science Education, 87, 224–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Osborne, J. F., Erduran, S., Simon, S., & Monk, M. (2001). Enhancing the quality of argument in school science. School Science Review, 82(301), 63–70.Google Scholar
  56. Pera, M. (1994). The discourses of science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. Polman, J. (2004). Dialogic activity structures for project-based learning environments. Cognition and Instruction, 22, 431–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Polman, J., & Pea, R. (2000). Transformative communication as a cultural tool for guiding inquiry science. Science Education, 85, 223–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Quinn, V. (1997). Critical thinking in young minds. London: David Fulton.Google Scholar
  60. Ritchie, S., & Tobin, K. (2001). Actions and discourses for transformative understanding in a middle school science class. International Journal of Science Education, 23, 283–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sawada, D., Piburn, M., Falconer, K., Turley, J., Benford, R., & Bloom, I. (2000). Reformed teaching observation protocol (RTOP) (Tech. Rep No. IN00-1). Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, Arizona Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers.Google Scholar
  62. Schwarz, B., Neuman, Y., Gil, J., & Ilya, M. (2003). Construction of collective and individual knowledge in argumentation activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12, 219–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Seymour, J., & Lehrer, R. (2006). Tracing the evolution of pedagogical content knowledge as the development of interanimated discourses. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15, 549–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Siegel, H. (1995). Why should educators care about argumentation? Informal Logic, 17(2), 159–176.Google Scholar
  65. Simon, S., Erduran, S., & Osborne, J. (2006). Learning to teach argumentation: Research and development in the science classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 28, 235–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Solomon, J. (1998). About argument and discussion. School Science Review, 80(291), 57–62.Google Scholar
  67. Toulmin, S. (1958). The uses of argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Treagust, D. (2007). General instructional methods and strategies. In S. Abell, & N. Lederman (Eds.) Handbook on research in science education (pp. 373–391). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  69. Van Zee, E. (2000). Using questioning to guide student’s thinking. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6, 227–269.Google Scholar
  70. Wallace, C., & Narayan, R. (2002). Acquiring the social language of science: Building science language identities through inquiry-based investigations. Paper presented at the Conference on Philosophical, Psychological, and Linguistic Foundations for Language and Science Literacy Research, University of Victoria, B.C., Canada.Google Scholar
  71. Weiss, I., & Pasley, J. (2004). What is high quality instruction? Educational Leadership, 61(5), 24–28.Google Scholar
  72. Weiss, I., Pasley, J., Smith, P., Banilower, E., & Heck, D. (2003). Looking inside the classroom: A study of K-12 mathematics and science education in the United States. Chapel Hill, NC: Horizon Research.Google Scholar
  73. Wragg, E. (1993). Primary teaching skills. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  74. Yip, D. (2001). Promoting the development of a conceptual change model of science instruction in prospective secondary biology teachers. International Journal of Science Education, 23, 755–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zady, M., Portes, P., & Ochs, V. (2003). Examining classroom interactions related to differences in students’ science achievement. Science Education, 87, 40–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science Education Department, Teaching and LearningUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

Personalised recommendations