Bodong Chen

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Notes: Lee2017-xm: Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy and Next Generation Science Standards



Citekey: @Lee2017-xm

Lee, O. (2017). Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy and Next Generation Science Standards: Convergences and Discrepancies Using Argument as an Example. Educational Researcher , 46(2), 90–102. Retrieved from






Unlike pre-CCSS standards developed within each subject area, the new standards highlight connections across subject areas (Stage, Asturias, Cheuk, Daro, & Hampton, 2013). (p. 1)

While ELA is traditionally associated with literary texts, the CCSS emphasize informational texts (Pearson, 2013) (p. 1)

Ms. Smith introduced a student writing assignment, which began with the prompt, “Write your opinion on … .” This caught my attention, as the use of opinion would be problematic in the science classroom. (p. 2)

The purpose of this article is to initiate a dialogue about the promise and challenge of implementing the CCSS and the NGSS in light of key convergences and discrepancies that appear across the two sets of standards. Specifically, I examine how the two sets of standards as policy documents address a foundational disciplinary practice: argument. (p. 2)

Research Literature on Argument in ELA/ Literacy and Science Education (p. 2)

The two terms can be defined to include both an individual or structural meaning and a social or dialogic meaning (Jiménez-Aleixandre & Erduran, 2007; McNeill, 2011). (p. 2)

Argument is typically defined as a product or structure based on Toulmin’s (1958) argument pattern consisting of data, claim, warrant, backing, and rebuttal. Argumentation is typically defined as a process or interactions between individuals exchanging evidence to convince each other of the validity of their claims. (p. 2)

My analysis focuses on how discipline-specific views of what counts as argument (i.e., disciplinary norms) and when develop- mentally argument is expected (i.e., developmental progressions) are reflected in each set of standards. As both sets of standards claim to be research based, I preface my analysis of the standards documents with a survey of relevant literature in ELA/literacy and science education with an attempt to identify conceptual sources of convergences and discrepancies between the two sets of standards. (p. 2)

Another important issue in ELA/literacy education (which is largely absent in science education literature) involves genres of communication (Gillespie, Olinghouse, & Graham, 2013; Klein & Rose, 2010). In the past, the focus has been on persuasion, for example, the NAEP framework’s focus on persuasive writing over the grades (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010a). (p. 3)

owever, as one of the most important shifts in the CCSS involves an express emphasis on logical or evidence-based argument as opposed to persuasive argument (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010b), (p. 3)

I would like to first make some general observations about the scope of the research literature on argument in ELA/literacy and science education. The literature is extensive in science edu- cation as argument is a major research program. Since 2000, sev- eral comprehensive reviews of literature address a range of topics related to argument (Bricker & Bell, 2008; Cavagnetto, 2010; Driver, Newton, & Osborne, 2000; Duschl, 2008; Ford, 2008; Manz, 2015; Sadler, 2004; Sampson & Clark, 2008). (p. 3)

Newell et al. (2011) state that “in con- trast to simply attempting to persuade someone to believe or do something, evidence-based argumentation involves making a claim supported by reasons or evidence from multiple sources that connects to the claims in a principled way” (p. 275) (p. 3)

In contrast, the literature on argument in ELA/lit- eracy education is limited, with one only major review by Newell, Beach, Smith, and VanDerHeide (2011). Newell et al. highlight that there is a “rather limited number of empirical studies of argu- mentative reading and writing in English language arts/reading” (p. 275). (p. 3)

modalities of communication, especially speaking ver- sus writing. Felton and Herko (2004) point out a gap between persuasive speaking versus writing. (p. 3)

In a similar manner, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1982; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1986) point out that even though there are differences in children’s oral and written production of narration, there is an even greater difference in their ability to produce oral and writ- ten arguments in the absence of conversational partners. (p. 3)

Disciplinary Norms of Argument (p. 3)

even young children can produce arguments in writing as well as orally (D. D. Anderson, 2008; Riley & Reedy, 2005 (p. 3)

Newell et al. (2011) consider the contributions of two disciplinary perspectives in argumentative reading and writing. A cognitive perspective examines use of argument strategies (e.g., claim, evidence, rebuttal), whereas a social perspective focuses on how learners acquire social prac- tices through interactions in sociocultural contexts. (p. 3)

for reviews of a range of theoretical conceptualizations of argumentation, see Bricker & Bell, 2008 (p. 3)

Erduran, Simon, and Osborne (2004) used a simplified version of the model in which an argument was broken down into three com- ponents: (a) a claim (or conclusion), (b) the data (supporting the claim), and © a warrant linking the data to the claim. McNeill and Krajcik (2009) conceptualized these three com- ponents as a claim, evidence, and reasoning. (p. 3)

The second major issue involves argumentation as social prac- tices in the classroom community (see literature reviews by Cavagnetto, 2010; Ford, 2008; Manz, 2015; also see Engle, Langer- Osuna, & McKinney de Royston, 2014). (p. 4)

The third major issue involves argumentation as epistemic practices, which are defined as “those that ground authority for knowing in the discipline” (Manz, 2015, p. 553; also see reviews in Bricker & Bell, 2008; Ford & Forman, 2006). (p. 4)

The literature traditionally presupposes that elementary stu- dents are not capable of engaging in argumentation on the grounds it is too abstract for them and beyond their self-centered or egocentric view. (p. 4)

Extending argumentation as social practices to argumentation as epistemic practices, current research asserts that engaging students in doing what scientists do when they argue constitutes an initiation into scientific argumentation. However, there are differences in how scientists and students enact argumentation. (p. 4)

while elementary students have an understanding of narration, students across K–12 have difficulty with argument writing (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1982; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1986). (p. 4)

Developmental studies on argument writing across elementary, middle, and high school levels consistently indicate that elementary students were less effective in using claims, data, and warrants (Knudson, 1991, 1992; McCann, 1989) and taking alternative or audience perspectives (Ferretti, Lewis, & Andrews-Weckerly, 2009; Ferretti, MacArthur, & Dowdy, 2000; Golder & Coirier, 1994). (p. 4)

The fourth major issue involves the role of science content knowledge for argumentation. If students do not understand a given science concept, they are unable to construct a scientifically accurate claim related to that concept or justify that claim. Thus, the quality and accuracy of students’ argu- ments are influenced by both their understanding of the struc- ture of an argument and their knowledge of science content (McNeill, 2011; McNeill, Lizotte, Krajcik, & Marx, 2006; Sampson & Clark, 2008). (p. 4)

“While there is a significant body of literature on argument writing with older students … there is little attention to this issue in elementary school classrooms and a virtual invisibility of young children’s engagement with the genre” (Ghiso, 2015, p. 191), and “relatively few of the interven- tions reported on at the elementary level have focused on the evidence-based logical argumentation emphasized in the CCSS” (O’Hallaron, 2014, p. 305). (p. 4)

One significant line of research is that of R. C. Anderson and colleagues, who engage third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in “collaborative reasoning” designed to pro- mote argumentative discourse, reading, and writing (R. C. Anderson et al., 2001; Jadallah et al., 2011; Reznitskaya, Anderson, & Kuo, 2007; Zhang et al., 2016). (p. 4)

Developmental Progressions (p. 4)

In recent years, emerging interven- tion research on scientific argumentation with elementary stu- dents at intermediate grade levels consistently indicates that these students are able to engage in argumentation (Berland & McNeill, 2010; Cavagnetto et al., 2010; Chen, Wang, Lu, Lin, & Hong, 2016; Hong, Lin, Wang, Chen, & Yang, 2013; Maloney & Simon, 2006; McNeill, 2011; Ryu & Sandoval, 2012; Songer & Gotwals, 2012). (p. 5)

Other recent studies also challenge the developmental general- ization by showing that elementary students, including children as young as first graders, are capable of constructing arguments. The results consistently indicate that provided with effective instruction, elementary students are intellectually able to grasp the complexity of an issue and can develop an argument in a sophisticated way (D. D. Anderson, 2008; Ghiso, 2015; Gilbert & Graham, 2010; Gillespie et al., 2013; O’Hallaron, 2014; Riley & Reedy, 2005). (p. 5)

Two major literature reviews on chil- dren’s scientific thinking and reasoning, including argument, pro- vided the conceptual grounding for the Framework (NRC, 2012) and subsequently the NGSS. Both reviews portray children as com- ing to school with rich knowledge of the natural world and com- plex reasoning that afford a solid foundation for learning science. One literature review (Metz, 1995) points out that in contrast to a commonly held view of children as concrete and simplistic think- ers, their thinking is surprisingly sophisticated, and they deploy a wide range of reasoning processes. The other literature review, Ta k - ing Science to School (NRC, 2007), highlights that children come to school “with the cognitive capacity to engage in serious ways with the enterprise of science” (p. vii) and that “important building blocks for learning science are in place before they enter school” (p. 53). (p. 5)

As it has become clear in this section, argument has been addressed in ELA/literacy and science education separately, and thus there are no cross-disciplinary conceptual or empirical stud- ies on argument between the two subject areas. (p. 5)

Both the Metz (1995) and NRC (2007) reviews emphasize the importance of scaffold-rich curricular and instructional support from teachers as they engage students in scientific tasks that are meaningful to the students. (p. 5)

At the same time, science education researchers have acknowl- edged that children often make unsupported claims about scien- tific phenomena, ignore or distort evidence that is inconsistent with their prior beliefs, and provide unsubstantiated reasoning (Furtak, Hardy, Beinbrech, Shavelson, & Shemwell, 2010; Hardy, Kloetzer, Moeller, & Sodian, 2010). Even in secondary school, establishing a classroom culture of rigorous scientific rea- soning and argument can be challenging to achieve (Osborne, Erduran, & Simon, 2004). Moreover, the priority given to argu- mentation supported by evidence can inhibit conceptually rich talk to construct explanations in middle school science class- rooms (Shemwell & Furtak, 2010). (p. 5)

The CCSS and the NGSS on Argument (p. 5)

I examine the CCSS and NGSS documents related to argument, pointing out key similarities and differences that emerge across these two sets of standards in terms of disciplinary norms of argument (i.e., What counts as argument?) and developmental progressions of children’s ability to engage in argument (i.e., When are children capable of engaging in argument?). (p. 5)

First, it is an entirely new endeavor for ELA to extend argument to different disci- plines, including science. Second, the CCSS emphasize the role of evidence as a critical feature of argument independent of the discipline (p. 6)

Disciplinary Norms of Argument (p. 6)

The CCSS for ELA/literacy. The CCSS define argument as “a rea- soned, logical way of demonstrating that the writer’s position, belief, or conclusion is valid” (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010b, p. 23). (p. 6)

Third, in underscoring the cross-disciplinary significance of evidence, the CCSS make a point of qualifying that “different disciplines call for different types of evidence” (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010a, p. 7). However, the CCSS do not venture to specify the precise nature of these differences beyond broad descriptors such as “evidence from the text” in ELA or “data in a scientifically acceptable form” in science. (p. 6)

because an argument deals with whether the main claim is true, it demands empirical descriptive evidence, statistics, or definitions for support. When writing an argument, the writer supports his or her claim(s) with sound reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010b, p. 23) (p. 6)

The NGSS. The Framework (NRC, 2012) describes Practice 7, “engaging in argument from evidence,” as follows: The study of science and engineering should produce a sense of the process of argument necessary for advancing and defending a new idea or an explanation of a phenomenon and the norms for conducting such arguments. In that spirit, students should argue for the explanations they construct, defend their interpretations of the associated data, and advocate for the designs they propose. (p. 73) (p. 6)

The CCSS describe many purposes of arguments—“to change the reader’s point of view, to bring about some action on the reader’s part, or to ask the reader to accept the writer’s expla- nation or evaluation of a concept, issue, or problem” (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010b, p. 23). Then, the CCSS distinguish between persuasive arguments and logical arguments, noting that whereas a persuasive argument relies principally on “the emotions the writing evokes in the audience or the character or credentials of the writer,” a logical argument “convinces the audience because of the perceived merit and reasonableness of the claims and proofs offered” (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010b, p. 24). (p. 6)

noting that “the nature of an effective argu- ment and what counts as evidence is specific to each subject” (NRC, 2015, p. 31). Just as with the CCSS, however, the NGSS make no attempt to articulate what these cross-disciplinary vari- ations entail. (p. 7)

The CCSS describe argument in sci- ence, which is comparable to how the Framework (NRC, 2012) and the NGSS describe argument in science. (p. 7)

Developmental Progressions (p. 7)

The CCSS for ELA/literacy articulate a devel- opmental trajectory: “As students advance through the grades and master the standards in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language, they are able to exhibit with increasing fullness and regularity these capacities of the literate individual” (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010a, p. 7). (p. 7)

both the Framework (NRC, 2012) and the NGSS prioritize “developing students’ proficiency in science in a coherent way across grades K–12 following the logic of learning progressions” (NRC, 2012, p. 33). (p. 7)

Summary. The NGSS characterization of young children’s ability to engage in argument seems to contradict that of the CCSS in both subtle and obvious ways. First, the CCSS view children’s ability to engage in argument as being limited in Grades K–5 and as developing to full capacity in Grades 6–8, whereas the NGSS view children as being able to engage in argument from kinder- garten. Second, the CCSS use opinion to refer to the developing form of argument, whereas the NGSS expect young children to distinguish evidence from opinion. Third, the CCSS introduce evidence for Grade 3 and claim for Grade 5, whereas the NGSS expect young children starting from kindergarten to include evidence in supporting their claim. While the CCSS consider opinions as a “developing form of argument,” the expectation that students provide evidence regularly starting at Grade 4 and make claims regularly starting at Grade 6 suggests that K–5 stu- dents do not engage in evidence-based argumentation. When the aforementioned three points are taken together, the CCSS portray children as gradually becoming capable of engaging in arguments from evidence over the span of Grades 3–8, whereas the NGSS portray children as capable of engaging in arguments from evidence from kindergarten. (p. 9)

From a developmental perspective (i.e., when children are capable of engaging in argument), argument and associated con- structs are introduced at different grade levels or grade bands across the CCSS and the NGSS, especially in Grades K–5. (p. 9)

Discussion (p. 9)

Consequences for Classroom Teaching (p. 9)

However, neither the standards docu- ments nor the research literature offer substantive insights into the precise nature of these differences or the consequences of such differences on classroom teaching across subject areas. (p. 9)

Recommendations for Educational Policies and Research Agenda (p. 10)

One approach to cross-disciplinary collaboration could involve a research forum consisting of stakeholder groups, including disciplinary experts, educational researchers, teachers, writers of standards, and policymakers across ELA/literacy and science education. (p. 10)

Another approach could involve a systematic, comprehen- sive, and integrative review of literature (for which the literature review section in this article could serve as a point of departure). (p. 10)

Teachers need informed guidance about how to go about resolving these discrepancies. (p. 10)

Still another approach could involve researchers and teach- ers working closely together for classroom research on curricu- lum, instruction, and assessment (e.g., Penuel, Fishman, Cheng, & Sabelli, 2011). (p. 10)

In assisting teachers and policymakers, the education research community could play a key role. (p. 10)

As envisioned in the new standards, researchers across ELA/lit- eracy and science education should engage in cross-disciplinary col- laboration to address how to capitalize on convergences and resolve discrepancies between the two sets of standards and between the two bodies of research literature. (p. 10)

I concur with Pearson (2013) that while supporting the CCSS and the NGSS, these standards “will prove to be ‘living Standards’ that will be revised regularly so that they are always based on our most current knowledge” (p. 258). (p. 10)

I would like to propose three interrelated areas of research activitie (p. 10)