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Argumentation: an essential component of a process of chemical modelling. Cristian Merino et al. LIEC (Llenguatge i Ensenyament de les Ciencies, UAB).

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Argumentation: an essential component of a process of chemical modelling

Cristian Merino et al.

LIEC (Llenguatge i Ensenyament de les Ciencies, UAB)


This document shows an example of argumentation as an essential component of a chemical modelling process The question is how it could be guided and fostered, comparing two initial training courses in chemistry. The particularity of one of these courses is that it has been designed under a modelling approach.


Toulmin: The uses of argumentation

Van Dijk: argumentative macro and


Adam: uses of argumentation (persuasion)

Sarda and Sanmarti:argumentation, a new pattern in the classroom

Argumentation as a tool for modelling (ACE, UAB)


Scientists use arguments to develop the hypotheses that relate Theoretical Models with the data or the initial departure points.Chemistry teaching based on models or designed according to a modelling process uses argumentation as an essential instrument for the simultaneous theoretical and practical construction of meaning.

language and modelling
Language and modelling




Establishing new relations, new entities


There are proposals to implement argumentation in class (Sardà & Sanmartí, 2000), using a patron to guide the school activityWe describe the specific characteristics of two chemistry courses on different contexts students-teacher: interactions between students with the ‘guide’ are analysed.

We can also identify differences in the design and the curriculum planning of each course. This fact generates different degrees of argumentation


The conclusions allow us to compare the argumentations elaborated in each course (the traditional chemical course and the modelling-approach course).


Modelling is conceived as a process that takes place when students learn “to make sense” of the facts that they observe (Group A)Experimentation, modelling and regulating discussion intertwine to promote a rational reconstruction of phenomena.Students achieve constructing relations and more and more complex explanations


On the other hand, the group B, first learned theoretical concepts and then practised them (atraditional approach)The analysed documents correspond to 6 students of group A and 6 of group B.We set up anelectronic template (ARGU- Microsoft Excel), designed to ‘scaffold’ the processes of argumentation construction (Merino et al., 2006) in both cases


The activity consisted in reading a text that introduced an experimental question that students had to solve.Once they finished the experiment, they had to explain the result, taking into account all errors, anomalies and doubts that could appear or that could be formulated by an external observer who does not know chemistry.


The experimental activity consisted in ‘burning iron’. In this experience, apparently, ‘something was lost’, but the iron mass increased. Students of both courses elaborated their texts according to the guidelines provided. Then, they compared, discussed and began a process of exchange of ideas that allowed them to evaluate their productions using the template with more independence.


The application of the template, with the purpose of impelling argumentation to give meaning to chemistry practices, has allowed us to verify its usefulness on the following aspects: *Acquisition of the argumentation pattern, using specific connectors (due to, nevertheless, if… then…). *Acquisition of reasoning based on hypotheses that are confirmed or not….*…. according to evidences from reflection on the obtained product. This ‘final explanation’ can be reviewed if it is not satisfactory.


The main differences betweengroups were dues to different understandings of arguments which can be considered convincing. For example, talking about reactions the burning of iron is explained by the formula (Fe2O3) and the argumentation is poor(Group B). In other cases, students are led to phenomenological interpretations with chemical criteria and more rich arguments but there also errors from common sense.(Group A)


Thus, new technologies were used to

facilitate learning processes.


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