Date of Award

Spring 4-27-2018

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Science and Mathematics Education


Jonathan Shemwell

Second Committee Member

Daniel Capps

Third Committee Member

Michael Wittmann


There is strong national interest in increasing student proficiency in STEM, which includes the learning and practice of scientific argumentation. The codevelopment of scientific knowledge and argumentation has shown to positively influence student general understanding of argument construction, scientific knowledge and principles. Research indicates students continue to struggle with constructing complete arguments, with specific difficulty in correctly incorporating reasoning. Numerous frameworks have been developed to support student learning about argumentation. These frameworks contain common teaching strategies for introducing and teaching reasoning within the context of a science classroom. However, these strategies do not specifically target student struggle with using reasoning, nor actively support ways for students to produce general knowledge about the importance of reasoning within argumentation. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into student process of understanding the importance of reasoning. An additional goal was to understand the usefulness of a contrasting cases activity for supporting student understanding of reasoning. Three interview sessions were conducted and recorded with pairs of 6th grade students, each session using a slight variation of a contrast matrix. A contrast matrix consists of a 2x2 table of arguments, where students compare arguments in order to identify a common differentiating feature, in this case reasoning. Transcripts of all interview sessions were analyzed for patterns of student process of isolating the contrast, and patterns for how students described the contrast and its importance within the argument. Overall, the results of this study indicate students can recognize reasoning is important as a general idea, while having only a vague idea of what reasoning is.