On the evening of June 15, 2022, from 19:00 to 20:30, the Beijing Normal University SSI Learning Project Team held a webinar via Tencent Rooms, themed “Scientific Argumentation in SSI Learning”. Li Ping, on behalf of the SSI-L project team of Yuxin School Attached to Capital Normal University, shared the thinking and practice of teaching scientific argumentation in the issue of “The Disposal of Other Waste by Landfill or Incineration”. Tang Xiaowei from the University of Macau, Xiao Sihan from East China Normal University, Liu Xiaoyu from the Haidian Institute of Education Sciences, and Lin Jing, head of the SSI-L Project Team from Beijing Normal University, attended the meeting and offered comments.
Li Ping took the Toulmin Model of Argumentation as framework to help students improve their scientific argumentation ability in SSI-L. With the issue of “The Disposal of Other Waste by Landfill or Incineration”, she demonstrated how to build scaffolding for students to experience scientific argumentation learning: first, the top-level course design based on the real problem-solving process; the second is to use cognitive conflict to trigger the necessity of scientific argumentation; the third is to use the cognitive tools of systematic thinking and the question lists of argumentation models; the fourth is to improve the scientific nature of the scientific argumentation content through biological experiments, chemical experiments, scientific research, etc.; the fifth is to create such argumentation scenarios as debate competition, and to standardise the language used in scientific argumentation.
Review and guidance
Liu Xiaoyu believed that the issue selection in the shared case is focused, featured with controversy, as well as a clear idea of teaching design. He proposed that: in the distribution of teaching materials, students should be provided with materials that differentiate various levels of relevance before scientific argumentation. Their ability to identify information could be improved by determining whether those sources provided could support their argument. At the same time, teachers could give out brochures, task lists and others to solidify the learning materials and prevent students from forgetting. Meanwhile teachers should clarify that in the process of argumentation, students’ responses to others’ rebuttals includes not only persuasion, but also thinking about and accepting other people’s ideas. In the teaching process, teachers should pay attention to the logic of students’ expressions, and the teaching goals of logics goals should be set as progressive in different grades.
Xiao Sihan affirmed the validity of the case selection. He pointed out that the use of appropriate issues to promote students’ experience in the learning process of awareness, reasoning, judgment, and action of the issue, which is significant to develop students to become scientifically literate, socially responsible and accountable future citizens. This case implements students’ SSI learning through actions in the final action stage, which is very brilliant. Xiao Sihan believed that SSI learning is not to emphasize the main field where experimental contexts are provided, but to allow students to experience how to make their own decisions and judgments on complex problems in real situations. Whether it is easy to carry out experiments is not essential to this case. In addition, he suggested that in this case, the learning context could be further normalized and closely related to the students’ real life, for instance, to discuss in association with the existing disposal areas in Beijing. Teaching activities should be carried out not merely in the form of debate. The purpose of scientific argumentation is negotiation, rather than persuasion. Just like the communication and dialogue that occur in students’ daily life, it focuses on communication and interaction, conveying and expressing their own opinions, and in the meantime receiving information from others. Sometimes students also need to be persuaded by others. Moreover, it is important to allow students to take on different identities, encourage them to identify their own positions, and consider whom to confront with and how to argue from a certain position.
Tang Xiaowei made comments and suggestions from the perspective of argumentation. First of all, she suggested that the definition of argumentation should not be too narrow. It consists of the product and process of argument-making. Product-wise, argumentation includes demonstrating evidence and reasoning about one’s own point of view; whereas process-wise, it also includes various elements that push forward the entire argumentation developing process. For instance, question raising is also one type of argumentation. So debates on the issue should pay attention to procedural argumentation. Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish the purpose of debate competition, the purpose of scientific argumentation, and the purpose of argumentation in SSI. Debate competition is to use evidence to defend one’s own point of view. Scientific argumentation is a process of critical cooperation. Compared with debate competition, scientific argumentation emphasizes more on negotiation and cooperation. Argumentation in SSI includes scientific argumentation, such as determining the authenticity of evidence. It also includes arguments related to standpoints and value issues. The essential issue that distinguishes argumentation in SSI from the general argumentation is the standpoint issue.
Lin Jing agreed with Xiao Sihan and Tang Xiaowei’s suggestions on the standpoint, cooperative negotiation, and other issues that should be paid attention to in argumentation. She pointed out the importance of clarifying connotations of scientific argumentation. Lin Jing further illustrated that the process in which students cognize the issue based on their own existing knowledge, carry on reasoning and make judgments of the issue in focus, and then put it into action, is an autonomous process for students to explore and practice regarding the issue. In terms of the application of scientific argumentation in SSI learning, first of all, teachers should pay attention to students’ training on sorting out the relationship between claims and evidence, and make different requirements for students of different grades. For example, primary school students should be made aware of whether they have evidence that matches their claims, and distinguish the subjectivity and objectivity of these evidences. Junior high school students should improve the logic between their claims and evidence, and seek to develop and support their claims based on objective evidence. High school students should further pursue the scientific nature of claims and evidence, propose and demonstrate their own scientific and reasonable claims based on scientific and objective evidence. Secondly, teachers should train students’ ability to exchange and demonstrate their own claims and evidence with others, that is, how to participate in the cooperative negotiation process. Students’ discussion on SSI is not about pursuing standard answers, but learning to listen to each other, think transpositionally and understand each other, learning to reach consensus through reasonable negotiation. Therefore, the title of the issue does not have to be the yes-or-no judgmental type. In addition, the series of questions and research content around issue setting should be more specific and closer to students’ life, “sinking” to reality rather than “up-floating” to concepts, “focusing” on real specific issues rather than “diverging” to abstract ideas or theories. Lin Jing further pointed out that SSI learning, as interdisciplinary learning activities, should focus on cultivating students’ ability of critical thinking and responsibility towards social problems brought about by science and technology. It is expected that with the continuous research of each partner school and the professional guidance of the expert team, SSI learning will play a greater role in the development of students’ core literacy.