Teaching Cross-Curricular Argumentation
The ability to engage in higher order reasoning is a critical skill for all students. Indeed, many educational standards specify that students should be able to evaluate whether a claim is supported by evidence and reasoning.
Today, students encounter claims within all of their academic classes across many different grade levels. They also encounter claims through a variety of everyday sources: social media, newspapers, popular books, television, billboards, and movies. But how can they determine if the claims are valid? To do so, students must be able to carefully examine the claim and engage in the process of argumentation. Thus, the purpose of this guidebook is to help students clarify, analyze, and evaluate arguments, both across academic content and within their daily lives.
An argument is a claim backed by reasons that are supported by evidence. Argumentation is the process of making a claim, presenting evidence, and producing reasons why the evidence supports the acceptance of the claim. Therefore, an argument begins with a claim, a statement that something is true. Second, facts and other evidence are presented to support the claim. Third, in a good argument, reasoning is presented to show how the evidence supports the claim. Thus, understanding a claim and its argument using evidence and reasoning is the basis for engaging in argumentation.
However, to fully engage in analyzing a claim, its evidence, and reasoning, argumentation involves three additional steps. Specifically, students must also (a) judge the quality of evidence and strength of reasoning presented in the claim, (b) consider other evidence for or against the claim, and (c) make a decision to accept or reject the claim, and explain why that decision was made. Therefore, after clearly understanding the argument itself using the first three steps, students must be guided to engage in three more steps. These steps require types of even higher order reasoning such as evaluating, judging, and making a decision.
This guidebook, Teaching Cross-Curricular Argumentation, is one of a series of Content Enhancement Routines focusing on higher order thinking and reasoning. The centerpiece of the routine is a graphic organizer, the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Guide. While most Content Enhancement Routines feature one guide as their centerpiece, this guidebook features two. The first is the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Guide A (CCAG-A) and the second is the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Guide B (CCAG-B). The two different guides were developed to give teachers choices as they respond to the differing needs of diverse groups of students or for students at different grade levels.
Embedded in the steps for both versions is the cognitive strategy that students can use to analyze and evaluate arguments. The guidebook also contains instructional procedures that teachers can use to help their students acquire the skills of argumentation.
This guidebook has been organized into five chapters.
• Chapter 1 (which you have almost completed) provides an introduction to the guidebook.
• Chapter 2 provides an overview of the graphic organizers, the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Guides. It also contains information about what you should think about or do prior to using a guide in your class. Blank copies of both guides are provided in Appendix A; completed examples of the guides are found in Appendix B.
• Chapter 3 provides an explanation of the instructional procedures to follow once you are ready to introduce the guide to students, the Cue-Do-Review procedures. It also contains suggestions for what to do as you continue to use the routine. To support your instruction, the following materials are found in Appendix C: The Cross-Curricular Argumentation Strategy Steps for Guide A and B, a definitions list for each of the guides, and the Argumentation Teacher Implementation Process, which may be used with both guides.
• Chapter 4 provides suggestions for evaluating student learning. Different evaluation tools are found in Appendix D: The Cross-Curricular Argumentation Checklist, the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Stem Prompts, the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Short Answer Test, the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Essay Outline, and a Cross-Curricular Sample Essay. These tools are appropriate for each of the guides.
• Chapter 5 provides suggestions for extending student learning to promote even deeper student thinking. Among the suggestions are ways to tailor the Cross-Curricular Argumentation Guides to the needs of different content areas, to use the guide to prepare for a debate, and to understand faulty reasoning.
Bulgren, J.A., Ellis, J.D., & Marquis, J.G. (2014). The use and effectiveness of an Argumentation and Evaluation Intervention in science classes. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 23(1), 82-91.
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