EVIDENCE AND REASONING IN INQUIRY
Scientific inquiry is built on the interaction of evidence and logical reasoning-the importance of careful observation, the role of observations in supporting a line of reasoning, and the value of reasoning in suggesting new observations. For basic literacy, students should be able to observe and describe things accurately and understand why those things are important in scientific inquiry. At the same time, they should understand what constitutes good reasoning, and practice judging reasons in others' arguments and in their own.
Instructionally, it may be helpful to think about the benchmarks in this map in conjunction with the scientific content in the other chapters of Benchmarks, particularly when student-inquiry activities involve observation, gathering evidence, and making arguments. Related topics in Benchmarks that will be mapped in the next edition of Atlas will provide further context for the benchmarks in this map. They include measurement, estimation, and the use of technology to improve observation and measurement.
Many early ideas and skills come together in the 3-5 benchmark "Scientists do not pay much attention to claims...," which has a wide fan of connections to later benchmarks. It provides a reasonably good summation of the central ideas, framed in language appropriate to the 3-5 level.
The lines of reasoning strand progresses from giving and looking for reasons in K-2, to evaluating reasons in 3-5, to evaluating lines of reasoning in 6-8 and 9-12 (when students have some understanding of logic and inference). This strand also includes a benchmark about how reasoning can be distorted, which is also in the Avoiding Bias in Science map. Further benchmarks on detailed principles of reasoning can be found in Benchmarks Chapter 9: THE MATHEMATICAL WORLD and will appear in the next edition of Atlas.
In the observations and evidence strand, the relationship between evidence and theory is hinted at in four early-grades benchmarks that also appear in the Scientific Theories map. In addition, the 9-12 benchmark in that strand, "Sometimes, scientists can control conditions...," appears in and is supported by benchmarks in the Scientific Investigations map.
Research in Benchmarks
Middle-school students tend to invoke personal experiences as evidence to justify a particular hypothesis. They seem to think of evidence as selected from what is already known or from personal experience or secondhand sources, not as information produced by experiment (Roseberry et al., 1992). Most 6th-graders can judge whether evidence is related to a theory, although they do not always evaluate this evidence correctly (Kuhn et al., 1988). When asked to use evidence to judge a theory, students of all ages may make only theory-based responses with no reference made to the presented evidence. Sometimes this appears to be because the available evidence conflicts with the students' beliefs (Kuhn et al., 1988).
Most high-school students will accept arguments based on inadequate sample size, accept causality from contiguous events, and accept conclusions based on statistically insignificant differences (Jungwirth & Dreyfus, 1990, 1992; Jungwirth, 1987). More students can recognize these inadequacies in arguments after prompting (for example, after being told that the conclusions drawn from the data were invalid and asked to state why) (Jungwirth & Dreyfus, 1992; Jungwirth, 1987).