Theses Doctoral

Youth Apprenticeship in Reasoned Discourse: The Power of Learning by Doing

Halpern, Mariel

Learning via apprenticeship is widely regarded as a powerful mechanism. To examine the role of apprenticeship learning and practice in developing argumentive thinking and writing, young adolescents (n = 64) participated in a four-week dialogic argumentation activity. They drew on available evidence and engaged 20 daily sessions in one-to-one electronic dialogues on contemporary social issues, anonymously, with a series of opposing-side partners. To assess the proposition that adolescents' argumentation skill advances via apprenticeship with a more skilled partner, in an experimental (but not control) discourse condition, a skilled adult arguer replaced a peer in half of the dialogues.

Effects on students were evaluated in the dialogue and individual writing contexts. In the dialogue context, performance in initial peer dialogues during the first day of the workshop and in a final dialogic assessment on a new topic were evaluated. In the individual writing context, performance on the last workshop-debate-topic essay and non-workshop-debate topic essay were evaluated. Data were analyzed according to previously identified and well-validated coding schemes on counterargument and argument strategies.

Although all participants showed skill gains, students in the experimental condition advanced in argumentive reasoning more rapidly than those in the peer-only control condition. Specifically, the strongest counterargument strategy (counter-undermine) appeared in greater proportions of idea units in the dialogues of students in the experimental condition, compared to those in the comparison condition. Only “weaken-other” improvements in dialogue reached significance in transferring to essays. These findings extend upon and support previous work on the power of dialogic engagement and engagement with more competent others as a mechanism of apprenticeship learning. Pedagogical and social implications are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Kuhn, Deanna
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 1, 2021