Science education in China is Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK) oriented in that SMK understanding is the major benchmark to assess students’ achievement in science learning. Such an orientation causes students to overemphasize the memorization of SMK and neglect other indispensable components of science, such as scientific attitudes and research skills. The central government in China launched an educational innovation known as New Curriculum Reform in 2003. Considerable progress has been made in the past 11 years in regard to theoretical understandings and administrative priorities, but little progress has been made in terms of classroom instruction and scientific literacy cultivation at the secondary level. Under the pressure of nationwide standardized exams, any educational innovations are unlikely to be accepted unless there is robust evidence suggesting their efficacy in promoting students’ achievements on exams, or even attempted unless teachers are assured such attempts will not negatively impact such achievement. Argumentation-integrated curriculum is one such innovation. Scientific argumentation is an essential scientific activity that leads to the development of an explanation based on empirical evidence. An initial foundation of SMK, in terms of the necessary background knowledge, is considered by many to be a vital component of argumentation and an enhanced SMK is one of the intended products of argumentation. The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed methods study was to investigate the relationship between Chinese students’ SMK levels and argumentation pedagogy and to provide insights into a possible research agenda focused on implementing argumentation in a heavily SMK-oriented context.
- Subject Matter Knowledge