Argumentation and intellectual humility: a theoretical synthesis and an empirical study about students’ warrants

Research in Science & Technological Education

Hayden Godfrey & Sibel Erduran



Argumentation, the justification of claims with reasons and/or evidence, has emerged as a significant goal in science education in recent years. Yet, there is limited understanding of secondary students’ arguments and particularly their use of warrants in interdisciplinary contexts such as science and religious education. Furthermore, research on argumentation in science education has not paid sufficient attention to how students’ arguments may potentially reflect intellectual humility. The concept of intellectual humility reinforces the view that one is not excessively arrogant regarding their beliefs, or excessively dismissive of their or others’ beliefs


It is important to understand students’ engagement in argumentation particularly in the context of topics such as evolution and creationism that often present tension and conflict. For classroom argumentation activities to be fruitful, students’ understanding of warrants as well as their intellectual humility are prerequisite.


The data are drawn from Year 9 students’ engagement in a card sort activity in the context of a funded project in England. The activity engaged the students in a task on the origins of life, where evidence and reasons were related to evolution versus creationism.

Design and Methods

The card sort activity was designed to limit students’ contributions about different evidence and emphasise specifically, the link (warrant) by providing fixed evidence and claims. During the activity, students were presented with ‘evidence cards’. Students were asked to consider each card and place it under the claim that they felt the card supported even if the student did not support that claim personally. They were further asked to explain why they thought the evidence might be used to support that claim. Students’ verbal accounts of their warrants for placing cards were explored.


Students’ warrants included repetition of evidence statements without articulating the reasons. As intellectual humility concerns accurately tracking the positive epistemic status of a belief or argument, a lack of coherence within students’ arguments contradicts the embodiment of intellectual humility.

Full article available, open access: Full article: Argumentation and intellectual humility: a theoretical synthesis and an empirical study about students’ warrants (

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