Theses Doctoral

Assessment of a Three-Year Argument Skill Development Curriculum

Crowell, Amanda

This study examines whether middle-school students' dense, extended engagement in an argumentation curriculum promoted development of argument skills, specifically increased use of direct counterargument and improved argument evaluation skill. A total of 56 students in two classes participated twice a week for three years (grades 6, 7, and 8) as part of their regular school curriculum. Students attended an urban middle school affiliated with a large university and were predominantly Hispanic and African-American and from lower and lower-middle socioeconomic backgrounds; 20% were from middle-class Caucasian families. In addition to its central element - electronically conducted pair dialogs on social issues - the curriculum encompassed a range of activities including small group preparation of arguments and reflective activities. A third class of 23 served as a comparison group; they also met twice a week over the same time period. They addressed similar social issues in more traditional whole-class discussion and wrote essays. Assessments of dialogic argumentation skill and argument evaluation skill initially and at the end of each of the three years indicated that that the curriculum promoted the use of counterargument generally and the direct counterargument skill specifically. Performance of the experimental group increased over time in both respects and exceeded that of the comparison group. Students participating in the intervention also engaged in more sustained direct counterargument sequences than did students in the comparison group at the final assessment. Parallel improvements in argument evaluation skill of the experimental group relative to the comparison group suggest that evaluation skill responds to practice much the same way as does argumentation performance. Theoretical implications for our understanding of developmental mechanisms are considered, as well as educational implications.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Kuhn, Deanna
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 17, 2011