TAPping into argumentation: Developments in the application of Toulmin's Argument Pattern for studying science discourse



This paper reports some methodological approaches to the analysis of argumentation discourse developed as part of the two-and-a-half year project titled “Enhancing the Quality of Argument in School Scienc'' supported by the Economic and Social Research Council in the United Kingdom. In this project researchers collaborated with middle-school science teachers to develop models of instructional activities in an effort to make argumentation a component of instruction. We begin the paper with a brief theoretical justification for why we consider argumentation to be of significance to science education. We then contextualize the use of Toulmin's Argument Pattern in the study of argumentation discourse and provide a justification for the methodological outcomes our approach generates. We illustrate how our work refines and develops research methodologies in argumentation analysis. In particular, we present two methodological approaches to the analysis of argumentation resulting in whole-class as well as small-group student discussions. For each approach, we illustrate our coding scheme and some results as well as how our methodological approach has enabled our inquiry into the quality of argumentation in the classroom. We conclude with some implications for future research in argumentation in science education. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed88:915–933, 2004