Argumentative Discourse in a High School Chemistry Classroom

Issam Abi-El-Mona, Fouad Abd-El-Khalick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This study aimed to identify the types of arguments promoted in various contexts common to a high school chemistry classroom, including lecture-discussion and laboratory activities. The study was guided by the following research question: What types of argument structures and schemes, if any, are promoted and engaged by students within various contexts in the participant classroom? Participants were 73 students enrolled in three sections of a grade 10 high school chemistry classroom. The same teacher taught all three sections and covered the same chemical topics. All regular and laboratory sessions were videotaped over the course of 2 months. Researcher fieldnotes were used to generate selective transcripts of argumentation evident during instruction. Additionally, semistructured interviews were conducted to assess participants' argumentative abilities in an inquiry-oriented context. Student arguments were found to be limited in number and mostly characterized by incomplete structures, especially in terms of warrants within all three target contexts. However, student reasoning schemes varied across the three contexts, with the most developed ones evident in the inquiry-based interview context. It is argued that “traditional” science instruction contexts can be used to promote argumentation if students are afforded certain support and guiding elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-361
Number of pages13
JournalSchool Science and Mathematics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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