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Abstract

Scientific argumentation is increasingly seen as a key inquiry practice for students in science classrooms. This is a complex practice that entails three overlapping, instructional goals: Participants articulatetheir understandings and work to persuadeothers of those understandings in order to make sense of the phenomenon under study (L. K. Berland & B. J. Reiser, 2009). This study examines the argumentative discussions that emerged in two middle school science classrooms to explore variation in how the goals of sensemaking and persuasion were taken up. Our analyses reveals that each classroom engaged with these two goals but that they did so quite differently. These differences suggest that the students in each class had overlapping but different interpretations of argumentation. In addition, comparing across the class' arguments suggests these two goals of scientific argumentation may be in tension with one another. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed95: 191–216, 2011