Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Kevin Reins


Today’s high school graduates are required to digest and interpret massive amounts of information related to science. National standards documents in science education promote the development of skills to effectively evaluate the credibility of scientific information, with the goal of producing citizens capable of making scientifically informed decisions after graduation. These skills include the ability to make reasoned arguments based on evidence (Scientific Argumentation [SA]) and an understanding of how scientific knowledge is generated, validated, and communicated (Nature of Science [NOS]). While the importance of these skills is not in dispute, the few studies that have examined the connection between them have yielded mixed results. The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential relationship between high school science students’ SA skill and NOS understanding in the context of real-world scenarios that include a scientific and ethical component (socioscientific issues [SSI]). This dissertation reports on a quantitative survey research study investigating high school students’ SA skill and level of NOS understanding in the context of two SSIs. One hundred ninety-five high school students from a suburban school district in South Dakota completed the survey/assessment. Linear regression analyses, Fisher transformations, and t-tests were used to investigate the nature of potential relationships between SA skill and NOS understanding, and also the potential effect of SSI characteristics on SA skill and NOS understanding. The data suggest moderate to large positive correlations between components of students’ NOS understanding and SA skills in the context of SSIs. Comparisons of the NOS-SA correlations between SSI scenarios showed relative consistency. Similarly, comparisons of NOS and SA score means between SSI scenarios demonstrated little to no variation. Analyses of potential effects of SSI characteristics including personal relevance, prior knowledge, and familiarity of debate on SA skill and NOS understanding revealed no clear trends. The results indicate a strong connection between high school students’ NOS understanding and SA skill. Additionally, students appear to apply their NOS understanding and SA skill similarly across SSI scenarios. Students’ application of NOS understanding and SA skill displays no clear correlation with studied characteristics of the SSI scenario. Future researchers should develop interventions to improve NOS and SA that allow for 1) determination of directionality in the NOS-SA relationship, 2) exploration of potential synergistic effects of teaching NOS and SA in a blended way, and 3) more precise and comprehensive measurement of SSI characteristics that may affect NOS and SA application.

Subject Categories

Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education


Confirmatory Factor Analysis, High School, Nature of Science, Scientific Argumentation, Scientific Reasoning, Socioscientific Issues

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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