Chapter 5 Summary
Argumentation and Student-Centered Learning Environments
The opening line of this chapter by Nussbaum encompasses education perfectly. “Humans play games! These games often involve argumentation, which is the process of constructing and critiquing arguments (p. 114, Jonassen & Land). The educational system is a game as learners we need to identify the winning condition of learning in tasks presented by educators and how best to meet those conditions. In the case of argumentation, the game is creating a well-backed argument to either defend one’s position or to dig deeper into the curricula through systematic questioning. Nussbaum refers to this as learning to argue and arguing to learn. With the release of the Common Core State Standards, this has become a skill that is increasingly more important in classroom instruction. As the high-stakes tests that evaluate student and teacher performance on these exams are looking for students to justify their responses by citing their sources back to readings.
Nussbaum indicates that “argumentation mapping” is an initial first step. This would be the same as prewriting for a paper. In the case of argumentation, typically students will be engaging in their arguments in verbal interaction or through a series of responses in a digital environment when a face to face interaction is not possible. The mapping of the argumentation aids an individual to follow a linear thought through the possible arguments it also can be used to map out the conversation that occurs as part of the discourse discussion.
Collaborative reasoning is another form of argumentation that is often used as part of a lit circle model in elementary and middle school. It is also an element of Socratic seminars as well. In this model the following ground rules exist:
think critically about ideas, not about people;
try to understand both sides of an issue; and
restate what someone has said if it is not clear (p. 126, Jonassen & Land).
Students run the conversations in collaborative reasoning and teachers take a step back and act more as an observer. This model does take some front loading for the teacher to take more of a back seat to allow for the free flow of in-depth conversation and questioning to create argumentative discourse to gain a deeper understanding of the content.
Argumentation as game play is done through scripted questioning style to gain a deeper understanding. The programs created allow students to think more critically about the content often by using technology tools to create a dialogue discourse to gain clarity on a classmate’s position.
Jonassen, D. (2012). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed., pp. 114-141). New York: Routledge.