Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)




Jonathan Shemwell

Second Committee Member

Daniel Capps

Third Committee Member

Justin Dimmel


Teachers and educational researchers in the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (Maine PSP) at the University of Maine identified making quality scientific arguments as a struggle for students. Not only is argumentation hard, but reasoning is the hardest component of an argument. Many frameworks have been developed to target teaching about argumentation but do not address how to teach one component of an argument in isolation. Educational practitioners encourage using everyday context to learn about arguments in the scientific context, but there is limited support in what is the best method. The first purpose of this research was to understand a more granular account of students’ understanding of reasoning’s role in an argument. This purpose is addressed by analyzing transcriptions from interviews with students determining what the role of the critical feature in an argument was, in the case of this study, reasoning. Students cognitive output related to what they thought about reasoning's role during a contrasting case activity was categorized based on natural separations in the data. The second purpose of this research was to understand how students might connect reasoning in everyday and scientific contexts. This purpose was accomplished by providing opportunities for connection. Students application to and from both contexts was evaluated based on if they applied a consistent pattern of expression in their understanding. The findings indicate that students can learn about one component of an argument when it is taught in isolation. In addition, students have a more detailed understanding of reasonings role than the current literature defines. In addition, students attempt to connect the everyday context with the scientific context. However, students either developed an understanding of reasoning in the everyday context and then faded in this understanding when using the scientific context, or the students made progress when attempting to connect the arguments. Further consideration of these aspects is needed when designing an activity to support students learning about reasoning in an argument. Teachers can use this data to inform how a task can be set up to deepen students’ understanding of reasoning’s role with relation to the connection to the evidence.