Synthesizing and appraising the value of argumentation in basic science: A systematic review

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In the past few years, argumentation has attracted more and more attention in science education area. In order to develop an overview of the value of argumentation in basic science education and to examine the effectiveness of related evidence, a systematic review was conducted to synthesize the value of argumentation. Three questions were addressed in this study: (1) how do the argumentative instructional practices carried out in science classroom? (2) What is the effectiveness of argumentation in basic science education? (3)What are the characteristics and qualities of the evidence in selected research studies? The searching was conducted in four electronic data-bases, EBSCO, Pro-quest, the British Education Index (BEI), and the Australia Education Index (AEI), by using the pre-determined keywords, from their inception to July 2014. All these research studies were examined according to both exclusion and inclusion criteria by two independent reviewers individually. At last, 28 articles met all the inclusion criteria and were included. After them, the information in the included research studies was extracted and the qualities of the evidences in each study were examined by EPPI 2.0 (EPPI, 2007). The results of this study showed that most research studies were conducted by the science educators in USA or UK, and only 3 research studies were conducted in the Asia and 1 research study was from Africa and Australia respectively. There were two main types of argumentation, oral and writing, adopted in science classrooms today. Science teachers using the teaching of interactive skills like discourse analysis, debate and writing and the use of on-line computer program in the promotion of the use of argumentation in science education. Argumentation was an effective means in promoting science learning, such as, helping students‘ scientific conceptual understandings, develop their views of nature of science, improve their reasoning thinking skills and advance their argumentation skills. Most research studies were conducted in qualitative approach. The overall findings showed that 16 papers were counted as having high overall weight of evidence, 8 papers as having medium weight of evidence and 4 papers as low weight of evidence. Generally, the research with control groups and pre-post test usually scored higher rating than research which did not have a control group and without any pre-post test. The findings of this study support the views of past research studies that argumentation do improve student science learning not only in the conceptual understandings but also in the views of nature of science, the skills of scientific thinking and skills of argumentation s (Dawson &Venville, 2010; Kuhn, 1993, 2010; Zohar &Nemet, 2002). Based on the above evidence, it could facilitate the understandings that argumentation was at the center of science education today (Clark & Sampson 2007; Driver et al., 2000; Osborne, Erduran& Simon, 2004).). After examining the quality of selected articles, nearly half of evidences in the selective research studies were ranked as medium or low. It is wished that more cooperation and research can be done to help increase the qualities of evidences in educational research studies in the future. It is also expected that more educators will be encouraged to investigate the effectiveness of argumentation in science education in different countries and areas around the world.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


Xie, Q., & So, W. (2015, October). Synthesizing and appraising the value of argumentation in basic science: A systematic review. Paper presented at the 2015 International Conference of East-Asian Association for Science Education (EASE 2015): Promoting Science Education Reform Through Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.


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