PD Playlist: Incorporating Scientific Argumentation into Your Classroom

APPROACH: The practice of argumentation—that is, developing, exploring, analyzing, and refining lines of reasoning and explanation in evidence-based ways—is essential to the work of scientists and to scientific thinking and learning. The complex practice of argumentation helps people articulate their individual reasoning, explore the ideas and perspectives of others, and refine a shared understanding of scientific ideas. It also help students learn how the enterprise of science fundamentally operates through social processes of critique, analysis, and collaboration. Being able to engage in argumentation is a fundamental form of scientific literacy promoted through the new vision. Engaging in argumentation also helps highlight to students that science and engineering are evolving bodies of knowledge based on the assessment of evidence or the iteration of designs—rather than a fixed set of facts to be memorized.

And yet, the practice of argumentation has tended to be underemphasized in the context of science education. In response, A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the resulting Next Generation Science Standards list "Engaging in Argument from Evidence" as one of the eight science and engineering practices that all students should consistently engage in. 

This short course is designed to help educators think about how the practice of argumentation relates to the practice of explanation, research- and practice-based strategies that can foster rich forms of student argumentation, and how argumentation opportunities can be implemented in more equitable ways. 

Estimated Time: 105 min.


  1. Watch this video overview of the argumentation practice (from The Argumentation Toolkit project) (5 min)
  2. Read pg. 71-73 of the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education, which contains a description of the practice of argumentation, goals for students by grade 12, and a vision for students' progression toward these goals. Where in this progression are your students at the beginning of the school year? At the end? Right now? (10 min)
  3. Read the basic distinction between argumentation in science and engineering  on pg. 52 of the Framework. Are you offering students opportunities to learn through engineering? If so, where do they—or how might they—participate in engineering argumentation? (5 min)
  4. Is it important to distinguish between the explanation and argumentation practices in the classroom? Some curricula and instruction do not differentiate between the Framework / NGSS practices of "constructing explanations" and "argument from evidence." Should you? Read this tool and think / discuss. (15 min)
  5. Read this summary of a research synthesis by Eve Manz called "Situating argumentation in student science activity." Reflect on your practice in terms of: (a) focusing argumentation on real scientific questions, and (b) designing for uncertainty in what is understood so that students come to see the need for argumentation. (15 min)
  6. How can formative assessment support culturally responsive argumentation in a classroom community? How can students incorporate their personal and cultural knowledge into their practice of argumentation? How can this teaching approach promote equity? Read this tool and think / discuss. (15 min)
  7. Beyond the Written C-E-R: Supporting Classroom Argumentative Talk about Investigations This tool describes how you can coordinate claims, evidence, and reasoning (C-E-R) in argumentation, and offers strategies to move beyond that model so students understand the nuances and variety of types of argumentation. Read this tool for suggested argumentation structures and consider how you can incorporate them into your teaching. (15 min)
  8. Explore the Different Elements of Argumentation (from The Argumentation Toolkit project) to learn about the role of: (1) evidence, (2) reasoning, (3) student interaction, (4) and competing claims. Watch the first video under each section. (25 min)
  9. Talk Activities that can Scaffold Argumentation This tool features a flowchart of purpose-driven talk activities—many of which can support the practice of scientific argumentation in the classroom. Argumentation relates deeply to the purposes of three major branches: (1) critiquing other student's ideas, (2) getting students to revise their thinking, and (3) reaching a consensus understanding. Explore the flowchart and talk activities and evaluate where any would fit well into your classroom. (10 min)
  10. How can I promote equitable sensemaking by setting expectations for multiple perspectives (10min) In science, students often learn by building on their peers’ ideas. But how can teachers help students consider peer ideas in ways that are equitable, thoughtful, and respectful? Read this brief, discuss the suggestions included within, and brainstorm additional facilitation techniques.
  11. Extension: Read this NSTA article on the Explanation and Argumentation Practices which includes classroom examples (30 min)
  12. Extension: Read this research chapter summarizing design principles for engaging students in scientific argumentation and collaborative debate (1 hour)