The article, Science Teachers and Scientific Argumentation: Trends in Views and Practice by Victor Sampson and Margaret R. Blanchard examines how the teachers involve the student in the argumentation process, following research showing that students understand better, when their teachers involve them in the argumentation process. The research involved thirty science teachers, teaching in large public secondary schools in the southeastern United States. It involved teachers who have acquired a lot of experience over the years, as well as teachers who are relatively new to the teaching practice. Sixty percent of the teachers had teaching experience of 1 to 5 years and only 20% of the teachers had experience of over ten years. The teachers have acquired different qualifications in science related and non-scientific courses. Forty seven percent of the teachers in the study had bachelor’s qualifications in science and education and fifty percent of them had masters in science and education. Only one teacher in the study has Ph.D. qualifications. The researchers ensured that they included teachers from all the ten middle schools and five high schools in the region of study. Seventy percent of the teachers in the study were female and thirty percent were male. Eighty percent of the teachers in the research were white, seventeen percent were black, and the rest were Latinas. The research aimed at identifying different things. This included how they evaluate different explanations for natural occurrences, how they develop their scientific arguments, and how they perceive the integration of argumentation in science. The participating teachers observed some of the obstacles they faced which discouraged them from engaging the students in the argumentation process. Some of these problems focused on the students, such as the lack of knowledge, skills and mental aptitude on the part of the students. Some teachers believed that their students were not ready to handle scientific argumentation in the classroom. Another obstacle involved the lack of time on the teachers’ part because of all the work they have to do and some teachers confessed that they lacked sufficient knowledge, which would enable them to identify ways of engaging the students in scientific argumentation. The research indicates that most science teachers do not have the knowledge or the resources required to enable the students to learn and participate in scientific argumentation. Some teachers do not engage the students in scientific argumentation because they have a limited understanding of the definition of science, while others do not see any importance in argumentation in the learning process. Some science teachers do not use available research and data, while others disregard the curriculum, and they opt to use the methods, which they perceive will help get their message across to the students. The researchers concluded on the need to address scientific argumentation as part of the teachers learning curriculum. Teachers would find it easier to incorporate and engage the students in scientific argumentation, if they have the necessary knowledge needed to do so. The more education that the teacher has, the more willing the teacher is in engaging the students in argumentation.
An advantage and strength of the research was that it was extensive. The researchers ensured that they involved all the schools in the region, and by so doing, they were able to capture the different teaching techniques that the schools apply. The researchers’ decision to have a well represented sample contributed to the strengths of the research. The researchers used teachers who had different levels of qualifications and experiences. An additional strength of the research was the fact that the researchers used different data collection methods. This was important because it ensured consistency of the results, and it made sure that the teachers gave the accurate information, and not the information they thought would benefit them in the study. One weakness of the study was that the researchers depended on the information that the teachers provided. Their research did not involve observing the teachers as they taught in their classroom, to determine if what they said during the data collection process was true. Although the researchers took different precautionary measures to ensure that the information provided by the participants was trustworthy, the fact that they relied on data provided solely by the participants could have affected the results of the research negatively.
This research is important as it seeks to find better alternatives of how the students can have a clearer understanding of what they are learning in science. It distinguishes science from other subjects by highlighting the importance of student engagement. In addition, the article highlights the importance of having skillful and knowledgeable teachers, who will be able to find and develop effective methods of engaging the students in the argumentation process. Teachers cannot teach that which they do not know effectively. When the teachers create a learning opportunity for the students to make mistakes as they learn, then the students get a chance to formulate their own theories and hypothesis, and they get a chance to either prove or refute their theories. This creates room for the advancement of scientific knowledge.
Sampson, V., & Blanchard, R. M. (2012). Science teachers and scientific argumentation: Trends in views and practice. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 49, (9), 1122-1148