According to the Common Core State Standards, middle and high students should engage in argumentation in social studies, science, and “technical subjects” such as engineering. In affirmation of this stance, the Next Generation Science Standards likewise recommended argumentation as a core practice of engineering. Despite this emphasis on argumentation in national standards, very little is known about the features of engineering-related student arguments or argumentation instruction in K-12 classrooms. The purpose of this literature review (which was conducted as a sub-component of a larger systematic review on argumentation in engineering) was therefore to identify and evaluate articles on teaching argumentation in K-12 classrooms. Specifically, the purpose of this literature review was to answer the following three research questions in regards to existing studies on engineering argumentation: What types of arguments are K-12 students asked to make in relation to the designed world? What instructional supports do teachers provide to students as they make these arguments? What are current strengths, as well as potential areas for improvement, in how engineering-related arguments and instructional scaffolds are operationalized and researched in K-12 classroom settings?
To answer these questions, a university librarian developed search terms in key databases related to education research, science research, and engineering research, resulting in 3,397 initial results. Multiple members of the research team eliminated articles that were duplicates, and they excluded articles that were beyond the scope of the review, based on clearly defined inclusion criteria such as the following: (a) The study is empirical in the sense that it states a research question, purpose, or hypothesis; includes a methods section with explicit mention of methods of data sources and analysis; and includes results or findings that stem from the analysis; and (b) Student participants in the study generate or use evidence-based claims in relation to the designed world. Supervised by a registered professional engineer, two members of the research team (with expertise in engineering and argumentation, respectively) are in the process of independently coding the studies using mutually-agreed upon codes.
We assert that engineering argumentation instruction in K-12 settings should teach students to consider multiple factors, including their knowledge of science and mathematics, results from tests, weighing trade-offs in terms of different yet valuable outcomes, and ethical considerations. We conclude by offering implications for more holistic, integrated instruction in engineering argumentation in K-12 settings.
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