Supporting Argumentation in Chemistry Education in Low-income Contexts
In this chapter we make the argument that argumentation is a high level form of engagement which is difficult to establish, support or sustain, particularly in constrained teaching and learning contexts such as prevail in many South African science classrooms. The South African education context is as diverse as the country's general population in terms of social, economic, cultural and linguistic differences. This diversity is partly responsible for the persistent disparate learner experiences in spite of huge government efforts towards equitable provision of education since 1994. Some of the challenges include resourcing of schools, inadequate infrastructure (large classes and crowded classrooms), teacher provision and/or preparation, learner preparedness for the grade level and poverty. Also, for various social and political reasons science is taught and learnt in English in spite of generally low learner proficiency. Using vignettes from real classroom interactions we illustrate how argumentation plays out in some chemistry classrooms. We demonstrate teacher and learner engagement in argumentation in ways that have not been reported elsewhere, both in whole class and small group discussions; how teacher questioning and response to learners’ ideas, making the rules of engagement and paying attention to language facilitated argumentation in these classrooms.