Effects of Teaching Argument to First-Year Community-College Students Using a Structural and Dialectical Approach
Date of Graduation
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
School of Education
Learning and Instruction
Learning & Instruction EdD
The purpose of this study was to measure to what extent an experimental method of teaching argument incorporating elements from both Toulmin’s (2004) structural approach and Walton’s (2013) dialectical approach effects first-year college students’ ability to write strong arguments. This experimental instruction used critical questioning as a strategy in building a strong argument, incorporating alternative viewpoints, and creating a dialogue between claims and counterclaims, backed logically by verifiable evidence from reliable sources.
Using the Analytic Scoring Rubric of Argumentative Writing (ASRAW; Stapleton & Wu, 2015) that includes the argument elements of claims, data, counterclaim, counterclaim data, rebuttal claim, and rebuttal data, the efficacy of the experimental instruction method was evaluated by collecting and scoring students’ preand postoutlines of arguments on topics involving controversial issues and students' argument research-paper outlines. Scores on these three sets of outlines in each class included in the study (Spring n=20 and Fall n=23 2020) were compared to investigate the efficacy of using the experimental instructional approach. The rubric analysis was based on outlines that incorporate the basic elements of a strong argument as defined above, both before and after this instructional method was employed.
The instruction was designed to develop students’ understanding of bias in the context of building an argument by helping students learn to explore and integrate alternative viewpoints, to reflect on their own assumptions, to discover bias in sources, and ultimately to build strong arguments from reliable sources that take more than one perspective into account. The instruction consisted of an interactive lecture and pair and group work on a controversial issue in class.
This study took place at a medium-sized community college in an “extended” 6- unit composition course designed for students needing more support than a traditional 3- or 4-unit first-year English Composition course. The student population of this community college and of this course was very diverse and representative of Northern California’s demographics, with many students being first- or second-generation immigrants, from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the first in their family to attend college, or a combination.
Overall, based on the paired-sample t tests for the pre- and postoutline pair, the pre- and research-paper outline pair on the total scores and on the counter-argument and evidence and rebuttals and evidence scores for both Spring and Fall 2020 classes were statistically significant, except for post- and research-paper outlines for Fall 2022 for total, counter-argument and evidence, pre- and postoutlines, and post- and research-paper outlines for rebuttal and rebuttal evidence. Effect size, as measured by Cohen’s d, for pairs that were statistically significant were all large, ranging from 0.80 to 1.26 except for counter-argument and counter-argument evidence for pre- and postoutlines for the Spring 2020 class that were both medium, ranging from 0.58 to 0.65.
Radcliff, S. (2022). Effects of Teaching Argument to First-Year Community-College Students Using a Structural and Dialectical Approach. Retrieved from https://repository.usfca.edu/diss/601
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