In partnership with the Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, and Institute of Physics

The student’s role in argumentation

Students are at the centre of argumentation. Through collaborative group work and small group discussion, students are encouraged to reason for themselves the validity of any given claim.

When listening to discussion, there will be indicators which should suggest whether the students are engaging with argumentation process.

This list was adapted from the IDEAS project (Osbourne, Eduran and Simon, 2004):

Students questioning each others’ ideas with reference to the data

In this example, students are discussing temperature-time graphs.

Students questioning each others ideas

Students building on other students’ arguments through clarifying or modifying

In this example, students are looking at a graph provided by the data in the previous example, but justifying the reason in a different way.

Students building on other arguments


Students reasoning and justifying ideas

In this example students are talking about classifying rocks.

Students reasoning and justifying ideas


Students evaluating other students’ ideas for their strengths and weaknesses

In this example students are following a rock classification exercise and their discussion led to them re-evaluating their theory.

Students evaluating others ideas

Here the role of the student is made clear. Whether they are questioning someone else’s argument, or formulating one of their own, these lessons require students to interact and be proactive.  Within lessons you may like to use student prompt cards with questions in to help structure their arguments, there are examples of lesson specific prompt questions embedded within the resource pack.

In order to really engage with the discussions, students will need to build their listening skills. At the same time, they will need to feel they are in a safe environment to make mistakes.  It will be worth investing some time into these prior to starting on such an approach. 


Page last updated on 29 April 2013