You’ve probably been hearing a lot lately about scientific discourse and argumentation in science.  Are you wondering what that means?  Are you wondering what that looks like in a classroom?  Me too!

I started with the Science & Engineering Practices and found that practice #7 is Engaging in Argument from Evidence. “Argumentation is a process for reaching agreements about explanations and design solutions. In science, reasoning and argument based on evidence are essential in identifying the best explanation for a natural phenomenon.  In engineering, reasoning and argument are needed to identify the best solution to a design problem.”   It’s important to note that in science, argumentation isn’t meant to be divisive or quarrelsome.  Argumentation is meant to support bringing forward differing ideas and use evidence to determine the best answer or solution.  It’s meant to be collaborative and collegial.

STEM Teaching Tools has several resources to support teachers in shifting the discourse culture in their classrooms.    How can I get my students to learn science by productively talking with each other?   helps to explain why this shift is important and offers this Talk Moves resource as support.  Is it important to distinguish between the explanation and argumentation practices in the classroom?  helps to establish the difference between explanation and argumentation, with reasons to support both types of conversation.

On average students are engaged in academic talk only 2-4% of their day!   One thing you can try is to invite a teaching partner into your classroom to track time spent in teacher-centered talk, student-to-teacher talk and student-to-student talk.  This data can help you understand the reality in your classroom and plan for any needed shifts.   For me the bottom line is that all students must talk about their experiences.  This forces students to think about and articulate their observations and questions.  This thinking and talking leads to important learning.  It is crucial that focused and productive talking are opportunities for all students.  Beyond initial conversations, students need to learn to listen to one another’s ideas and to build on each other’s ideas while deepening their own understanding.  One strategy for this kind of structured talk is this partner protocol.  If you are interested in trying out this, or any other discourse protocol and want some help – don’t hesitate to contact me.