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Keywords:

  • argumentation;
  • science teachers;
  • cognitive appraisal interview

Abstract

Current research indicates that student engagement in scientific argumentation can foster a better understanding of the concepts and the processes of science. Yet opportunities for students to participate in authentic argumentation inside the science classroom are rare. There also is little known about science teachers' understandings of argumentation, their ability to participate in this complex practice, or their views about using argumentation as part of the teaching and learning of science. In this study, the researchers used a cognitive appraisal interview to examine how 30 secondary science teachers evaluate alternative explanations, generate an argument to support a specific explanation, and investigate their views about engaging students in argumentation. The analysis of the teachers' comments and actions during the interview indicates that these teachers relied primarily on their prior content knowledge to evaluate the validity of an explanation rather than using available data. Although some of the teachers included data and reasoning in their arguments, most of the teachers crafted an argument that simply expanded on a chosen explanation but provided no real support for it. The teachers also mentioned multiple barriers to the integration of argumentation into the teaching and learning of science, primarily related to their perceptions of students' ability levels, even though all of these teachers viewed argumentation as a way to help students understand science. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 49: 1122–1148, 2012