Mathematical and Scientific Argumentation in PreK-12: A Cross-Disciplinary Synthesis of Recent DRK-12 Projects

This review synthesizes insights from 23 NSF-funded projects, totaling $40 million, that studied mathematical and scientific argumentation in STEM education from prekindergarten (PreK) to Grade 12. The projects reported on both studies of argumentation interventions and naturalistic observations in “business-as-usual” settings. The projects advanced substantive knowledge about how to support student argumentation. In particular, the projects highlighted the importance of making an argument’s structure explicit and facilitating student-to-student discourse, especially with technological tools.

Key Findings

  • DRK-12 projects were about evenly split across science and mathematics, with most studies involving student-focused interventions. Projects also primarily took place in middle- and high school settings, with fewer studies in PreK or early elementary classrooms.
  • DRK-12 projects examining teacher interventions identified several instructional practices that teachers used to support students learning of argumentation. However, fewer studies examined how teachers learned how to apply practices in context.
  • DRK-12 projects identified approaches to supporting argumentation that showed evidence of a positive effect on student learning in both mathematics and science. These approaches include making the structure of arguments explicit and facilitating student discourse.
  • Relatively few DRK-12 projects addressed the teaching and learning of argumentation with students from historically marginalized groups in STEM. However, projects that did investigate this line of research identified how contextual factors and teachers’ beliefs about learning influenced opportunities for students to learn about argumentation.
  • Reviewed DRK-12 projects reported on the development of several promising tools to support the teaching and learning of argumentation. However, few of these studies provided causal evidence on effectiveness of these interventions. Future design research programs that involve a combination of development and evaluation work can provide insight into successful components of such technological interventions.

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