Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Disorders & Special Education


Special Education

Committee Director

Robert Gable

Committee Member

Peggy Hester

Committee Member

Steve Tonelson

Committee Member

William McConnell


The recent science education reforms mandate that all students must receive adequate opportunities to access the science curriculum in order to gain a better understanding of how science and the world works (National Research Council, 2012). According to these reforms, engagement in argumentation is one science practice essential to today’s K-12 science education (Sampson & Clark, 2011). Engagement in argumentation promotes critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills, and has the potential to promote growth of cognitive and metacognitive reasoning (Venville & Dawson, 2010). Additionally, engagement in argumentation using socioscientific issues provides students with authentic links to contemporary real-world social issues with substantive ties to science. Science education research in argumentation using socioscientific issues examines how typically developing students engage in this practice. However, there is scant research that addresses how students with disabilities engage in this form of argumentation. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to examine critically the engagement of secondary students with disabilities in argumentation using socioscientific issues. A multiple probe design replicated across three secondary science classes was used to examine the effects of explicit instruction on group and individual engagement in argumentation using socioscientific issues. Visual analysis and two non-parametric overlap methods (i.e., percent of non-overlapping data and Tau-U) were employed to determine treatment effect. Several results were consistent with the way typically developing students engage in argumentation using socioscientific issues. Conversely, other results suggested that disability status, working memory, verbal comprehension, processing speed, and cognitive load may have impacted students’ engagement in argumentation. Conclusions drawn from the data include implications for future research and practice. Limitations of the study are also discussed.