• Identify flaws in their own arguments and modify and improve them in response to criticism.
• Recognize that the major features of scientific arguments are claims, data, and reasons and distinguish these elements in examples.
• Explain the nature of the controversy in the development of a given scientific idea, describe the debate that surrounded its inception, and indicate why one particular theory succeeded.
• Explain how claims to knowledge are judged by the scientific community today and articulate the merits and limitations of peer review and the need for independent replication of critical investigations.
• Read media reports of science or technology in a critical manner so as to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
The study of science and engineering should produce a sense of the process of argument necessary for advancing and defending a new idea or an explanation of a phenomenon and the norms for conducting such arguments. In that spirit, students should argue for the explanations they construct, defend their interpretations of the associated data, and advocate for the designs they propose. Meanwhile, they should learn how to evaluate critically the scientific arguments of others and present counterarguments. Learning to argue scientifically offers students not only an opportunity to use their scientific knowledge in justifying an explanation and in identifying the weaknesses in others’ arguments but also to build their own knowledge and understanding. Constructing and critiquing arguments are both a core process of science and one that supports science education, as research suggests that interaction with others is the most cognitively effective way of learning [31-33].
Young students can begin by constructing an argument for their own interpretation of the phenomena they observe and of any data they collect. They need instructional support to go beyond simply making claims—that is, to include reasons or references to evidence and to begin to distinguish evidence from opinion. As they grow in their ability to construct scientific arguments, students can draw on a wider range of reasons or evidence, so that their arguments become more sophisticated. In addition, they should be expected to discern what aspects of the evidence are potentially significant for supporting or refuting a particular argument.