I’m on my way to Famagusta, in Cyprus/Northern Cyprus, via Istanbul as this is published. I’m presenting at my first academic conference, Frontiers in Mathematics and Science Education Research 2014. My presentation is on Thursday 1 May, following that of Professor Sibel Erduran, someone I cite extensively in my thesis! Eep!

Pre-service Primary Teachers’ Argumentation in Socioscientific Issues

Charlotte Pezaro, Tony Wright, and Robyn Gillies


Even in the context of a university science course, students make and attempt to defend unscientific claims in personal and scientific contexts. This research examined a random sample of rhetorical arguments submitted by 130 first-year students in a pre-service primary teaching program for the presence and quality of research evidence and reasoning. Students were strongly encouraged to review the evidence with an open mind before taking a stance. Arguments were analysed by identifying elements of Toulmin’s Argument Pattern (Toulmin, 1958) and evaluating the quality of and relationships between these elements using SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982). For the most part, students’ claims aligned with scientific consensus; for example, that climate change is almost certainly anthropogenic. However, a small number of students submitted pseudoscientific claims, such as that fluoride should not be added to the water supply. Such claims lack evidence, contradict existing evidence that comes from a strong methodological basis, or rest on weak evidence that comes from a poor methodological basis. Sometimes these claims rely on faulty reasoning or logical fallacies. Concern is not only for those students who have submitted pseudoscientific claims, but also for those students who have presented claims that reflect scientific consensus yet defend those claims with shoddy evidence or poor reasoning. If students cannot distinguish between scientific and pseudoscientific claims, evidence and reasoning, how will they make robust decisions about health, how money should be spent, and how and what they will teach their future students?