Engaging in science as an argumentative practice can promote students' critical thinking, reflection, and evaluation of evidence. However, many do not approach science in this way. Furthermore, the presumed confrontational nature of argumentation may run against cultural norms particularly during the sensitive time of early adolescence. This paper explores whether middle-school students' ability to engage in critical components of argumentation in science impacts science classroom learning. It also examines whether students' willingness to do so attenuates or moderates that benefit. In other words, does one need to be both willing and able to engage critically with the discursive nature of science to receive benefits to learning? This study of middle-school students participating in four months of inquiry science shows a positive impact of argumentative sensemaking ability on learning, as well as instances of a moderating effect of one's willingness to engage in argumentative discourse. Possible mechanisms and the potential impacts to educational practices are discussed.
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