The effects of scientific argumentation on student attitudes and evidence based reasoning skills
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For a scientifically literate society, there must be trust in the scientific community. This is only possible with an appreciation for the value of consensus, and the rigors that scientific consensus inherently requires. Students need more practice with construction and identification of valid explanations, in addition to more experience comparing and communicating multiple claims for the same question. Argumentation by evidence provides these opportunities and is the seventh practice of the Next Generation of Science Standards. This action research based project measured the effect student participation in a treatment consisting of five scientific argumentation activities on students' evidence-based reasoning skills, comfort levels and general attitudes towards science. Results showed slight improvement of evidence-based reasoning skills, a more complete understanding of scientific argumentation as a practice, and higher confidence and comfort levels when doing science. Results also indicated a slight improvement in students' abilities to identify valid evidence and reliable sources of information. This study also measured the types of evidence and quality of claims and justification provided by students during the treatment activities. Patterns seen in these measurements included common use of definitions as claims, inability to construct a concise yet sufficient claim, difficulty distinguishing claims from evidence, and a prevalent student viewpoint that providing justification for evidence is of less importance than providing evidence for claims.