Testing a methodology for the development of socioscientific issues to enhance middle school students’ argumentation and reasoning

Vaille Dawson*, Grady Venville

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: An overarching goal of school science education is to prepare young people for a rapidly changing and complex world. Middle school science students need more than a basic understanding of science concepts in preparation for further study. Rather, they need the skills to question and evaluate evidence and make decisions about complex scientific issues that impact themselves, society and the environment. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to test a three-phase methodology for developing socioscientific issues that can be used in the classroom to engage middle school students, support their decision-making skills, enable them to construct an argument and use rational reasoning patterns. Sample: The context of this research was four Australian Year 7 (12 years old) classrooms where students were studying the topic of water use. Design and Methods: This exploratory study tested a three-phase methodology that included: (1) development of the socioscientific issues in consultation with experienced science teachers; (2) trialling with 68 Year 7 students in three diverse schools with teacher support and writing frames; and, (3) testing with 52 different Year 7 students from two schools to measure argument quality. Results: The findings showed that all students, including those with low literacy levels, were able to engage with the socioscientific issues. The majority of students also were able to construct an argument that could be assessed for argument quality based on structure, type of reasoning and types of categories. Factors that facilitated engagement with the issues were personal relevance, collaborative whole-class discussion, scaffolding, and explicit literacy support. Conclusion: The conclusion was that the three-phase methodology for developing socioscientific issues was effective in the contexts in this study. The findings also supported further testing of the methodology in other contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-514
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in Science and Technological Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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