|Abstract or Summary
- The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine scientific arguments constructed by secondary science teachers during instruction. The analysis focused on how arguments constructed by teachers differed based on the mode of inquiry underlying the topic. Specifically, how did the structure and content of arguments differ between experimentally and historically based topics? In addition, what factors mediate these differences? Four highly experienced high school science teachers were observed daily during instructional units for both experimental and historical science topics. Data sources include classroom observations, field notes, reflective memos, classroom artifacts, a nature of science survey, and teacher interviews. The arguments were analyzed for structure and content using Toulmin’s argumentation pattern and Walton’s schemes for presumptive reasoning revealing specific patterns of use between the two modes of inquiry. Interview data was analyzed to determine possible factors mediating these patterns.
The results of this study reveal that highly experienced teachers present arguments to their students that, while simple in structure, reveal authentic images of science based on experimental and historical modes of inquiry. Structural analysis of the data revealed a common trend toward a greater amount of scientific data used to evidence knowledge claims in the historical science units. The presumptive reasoning analysis revealed that, while some presumptive reasoning schemes remained stable across the two units (e.g. ‘causal inferences’ and ‘sign’ schemes), others revealed different patterns of use including the ‘analogy’, ‘evidence to hypothesis’, ‘example’, and ‘expert opinion’ schemes. Finally, examination of the interview and survey data revealed five specific factors mediating the arguments constructed by the teachers: view of the nature of science, nature of the topic, teacher personal factors, view of students, and pedagogical decisions. These factors influenced both the structure and use of presumptive reasoning in the arguments. The results have implications for classroom practice, teacher education, and further research.