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Issues and future research directions

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As previous researchers have noted, the implementation of scientific argumentation and science as modeling strategies can be challenging for teachers (e.g., Erduran & Dagher, 2014; Fischer et al., 2014; McNeill & Krajcik, 2008). Teachers may not have the pedagogical knowledge to engage students in argumentation, despite a stated belief that it is an important aspect of student learning in science. In interviews with 30 high school teachers, Sampson and Blanchard (2012) identified a number of perceived barriers to implementing argumentation, such as the achievement level of their students, students’ lack of prior experience with argumentation, time and curricular limitations, or teachers’ own inexperience with the strategy.

The existence of scaffolds and curricula designed to facilitate either argumentation or science as modeling should support teachers in moving toward using these strategies more often, but there may be additional challenges beyond simply getting such supports into teachers’ hands. Once there, what teachers enact in the classroom may not align with what was intended by curriculum developers or researchers (Remillard, 2005). However, Osborne, Erduran, and Simon (2004) demonstrated that directed scaffolds to support argumentation help not only the students improve in their argumentation skills but also the teachers in facilitating argumentation. Lortie (1975) described an “apprenticeship of observation” for teacher education, in that teachers have had 16+ years in the role of students, during which time they have developed ideas and beliefs about what teaching is and what teachers do (Ball, 1988). These ideas may or may not be aligned with the theoretical underpinnings or best practices espoused by either teacher education generally or science education more specifically, and if not, the formal teacher education program may be insufficient for overcoming conflicting beliefs that have developed over this observational period. Explicit and routine inclusion of both science strategies, such as argumentation and science as modeling, and more domain-general strategies and strategic processes in preservice teacher education and inservice professional development programs may be needed to provide teachers with experiences that allow them to carry the strategies forward into their own teaching.

Concluding thoughts

Facilitating widespread use of contemporary science intervention strategies is challenging for many educational researchers and leaders. For deeper cognitive and metacognitive engagement, learners should experience socio-scientific issues (e.g., connections between increased occurrence of extreme weather events and human-induced climate change), which include fundamental science concepts, through argumentation and modeling strategies. Engagement in these deeper science learningstrategies is complex, but scaffolding argumentation and modeling instruction may facilitate learners’ deep understanding of science. For example, the NRC (2012) suggests that young learners can begin constructing arguments by interpreting observations and collected data. As learners reach adolescence, they can begin to evaluate alternative explanations through gauging how well each is supported by various lines of evidence. Finally, learners should be able to identify flaws in their own arguments, as well as in other arguments, by using scientific norms of logic, analysis, and evaluation. Similarly and relatedly, the NRC (2012) said that:

[engagement in modeling and evidence-based argumentation invites and encourages students to reflect on the status of their own knowledge and their understanding of how science works ...[and] as they involve themselves in the practices of science ...[e.g., through scientific inquiry], their level of sophistication in understanding how any given practice contributes to the scientific enterprise can continue to develop across all grade levels.

(p. 79)

Therefore, researchers and designers need to create instructional scaffolding that supports effective employment of science learning strategies, as well as teacher education and professional learning opportunities for educators to become well-versed in these strategies. This will enable teachers and learners to develop robust scientific literacy, with deep understanding about what scientists know and how scientists know what they know.


The National Science Foundation (NSF), under Grant No. DRL-1316057 and Grant No. DRL-1721041, supported part of this research. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the NSF’s views.

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