Our Project

What does it mean to progress in, or “get better at,” argumentation in science?

To answer this question, we researched how well students performed on assessment tasks that test different levels of complexity of argumentation in science. Our assessments were administered over four years to 1,000+ middle school students in a large school district in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of the assessment items are about physical behavior of matter, and are designed for use with middle school or early high school students. The tasks assess students’ ability to both construct and critique scientific arguments. The table/map below represents the findings of the project: a learning progression for argumentation in science. The complexity of argumentation increases from the top to the bottom. The video describes the progression in more detail.

Learning Progression for Argumentation in Science

Level Constructing Critiquing Description Representation of Elements
0 No evidence of facility with argumentation.
0a Stating a Claim Student states a relevant claim.
0b Identifying a claim Student identifies another person’s claim.
0c Providing evidence supporting a claim Student supports a claim with a piece of evidence.
1a Constructing reasoning that links claim and evidence Student constructs explicit reasoning that links their claim to evidence.
1b Identifying reasoning Student identifies the reasoning provided by another person.
1c Constructing a complete argument Student makes a claim, selects evidence that supports that claim, and explains the connection between the evidence and claim using reasoning.
1d Providing an alternative counter argument Student offers a counterargument as a way of rebutting another person’s claim.
2a Providing a counter-critique Student critiques another’s argument. Fully explicates the claim that the argument is flawed and justification for why that argument is flawed.
2b Constructing a one-sided comparative argument Student makes an evaluative judgment about the merits of two competing arguments and makes an explicit argument for the value of one argument. No reasoning for why the other argument is weaker.
2d Providing a two-sided comparative argument Student makes an evaluative judgement about two competing arguments and makes an explicit argument (claim + justification) for why one argument is stronger and why the other is weaker (claim + justification).
2e Constructing a counter claim with justification This progress level marks the top anchor of our progress map. Student explicitly compares and contrasts two competing arguments, and also constructs a new argument in which they can explicitly justify why it is superior to each of the previous arguments.