Learning through Collaborative Argumentation

PurposeStudent collaboration
DescriptionFrom Piaget's perspective, interaction with peers is an important aspect of cognitive development and knowledge construction (Palincsar, 1998). From a constructivist perspective interaction is vital because it is through interactions with others that a learner, has his/her existing mental representations challenged. Interactions with peers provide opportunities for students to reconsider their existing thoughts and beliefs. In some cases, this reconsideration leads to new knowledge construction (De Lisi & Golbeck, 1999). In the classroom these interactions between and with peers may take different forms. One way students are able to learn from one another is through discourse. An important form of discourse is argumentation. In fact, argumentation represents one of the most basic forms of human interaction (Voss & Dyke, 2001). Corbett (1986) maintains that argumentation has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries (Voss & Dyke, 2001). By example argumentation usually looks like this: Person A makes a claim and provides support for it if necessary or is asked to by person B. After the support is provided, person B may then challenge the argument either by questioning the validity of the support or by questioning whether or not said support actually supports the claim made. Person B may also choose to offer a counterargument which person A then has the option of challenging (Voss & Dyke, 2001). In contrast, Zarefsky's (1995, p.43) definition of argumentation is "the practice of justifying decisions under conditions of uncertainty" (Voss & Dyke, 2001). A number of studies have demonstrated the educational benefits of constructing arguments and engaging in argumentative discourse for both school-aged children and college students (Kuhn & Udell, 2003). Using this research as a theoretical foundation, this analytic seeks to provide examples of productive discourse occurring in classrooms. These video events reveal discourse and arguments that contribute to students' understanding and constructing meaning around the placement of fractions on the number line. This analytic will also provide evidence that discourse contributed to students' ability to build understanding of fractions as numbers (Schmeelk, 2010). The events in this analytic are taken from the "Number Line Models and Placing Numbers on the Big Number Line" and "Alan's Infinity" sequences on the Video Mosaic Collaborative. The events are analyzed to show how the students socially constructed these concepts through discussion with each other and simple guiding from the instructor. The analyses presented demonstrate the ability of students to learn through collaborative argumentation. The analytic serves to offer an example of what collaborative argumentation in the classroom may look like. It highlights the classroom culture that makes collaborative argumentation possible. It also showcases the importance of the role of the instructor in fostering and promoting a culture of collaboration. An example of this can be seen in the "What's the confusion?" event. Here the instructor frames the conversation and helps to keep everyone on the same page. This event begins with the question "can someone tell me what the confusion is?" This proves to be a very important contribution to the conversation. This analytic also serves to offer an example of the complexity of the concepts and ideas that lend themselves to knowledge construction through collaborative argumentation. Trying to understand the concept of infinity and where to place fractions on the number line allowed the class opportunities for rich discussion as differing perspectives were shared and explained. The children make claims and counter claims. In the "Alan's Infinity" event, Andrew makes a claim and Erik presents a counterargument. There are questions of clarification asked. In the "Erik challenges Meredith" event, Michael begins by asking Meredith a question of clarification "Why are you calling two thirds, one half? Because it is not half, it is bigger than one half, two thirds is bigger than one half we did that once." He asks for clarification. He also brings up conversations that were had in other classes. We see the same attention paid to clarification several times throughout this analytic. In the "Meredith, Erik, and Alan" event, Alan attempts to clarify Meredith's position to Erik. In the "Is ½ equivalent to zero?" event, Alan expresses what he believes to be Audra's reasoning for placing the number ½ on the number line where she did. Several threads run throughout this analytic: the classroom culture that must exist for collaborative argumentation to be successful; the importance of the role of the instructor; the opportunities that exist when learning is made public and students have opportunities to explain their reasoning to the entire group; the importance of questions; and the importance of students providing summaries. The last event in this analytic, "What's the confusion" is an example of several of these important aspects wrapped up in a single event. The instructor asks an important question; several students provide summaries, attempting to clarify the differing viewpoints that exist in the class. At the end of the discussion, the class votes that the placement of the number on the number line should be changed. Together they are able to come to a common understanding. This common understanding is achieved through collaborative argumentation. This analytic is useful to educators who wish to see examples of collaborative argumentation for the purposes of implementing it in their classrooms.


Works Cited

Chinn, C.A., O'Donnell, A.M., & Jinks, T.S. (2000). The Structure of Discourse in Collaborative Learning. Journal of Experimental Education, 69, 77-98.Chinn, C.A., & Clark, D.B. (2013).

Chinn, C.A., & Clark, D.B. (2013). Learning Through Collaborative Argumentation. In Cindy E. Hmelo-Silver, Clark A. Chinn, Angela M. O'Donnell, Carol Chan (Eds.), The International Handbook of Collaborative Learning (314-332). New York:Taylor & Francis.

DeLisi, R., & Golbeck, S.L. (1999). Implications of Piagetian Theory for Peer Learning. In Angela M. O'Donnell, Alison King (Eds.), Cognitive Perspectives of Peer Learning (pp.3-37). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

King, A. (1999). Discourse Patterns for Mediating Peer Learning. In Angela M. O'Donnell & Alison King (Eds.) , Cognitive Perspectives on Peer Learning (87-115). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kuhn, D., & Udell, W. (2003). The Development of Argument Skills. Child Development, 74, 1245-1260.

Oxford, R.L. (1997). Cooperative Learning, Collaborative Learning, and Interaction: Three Communicative Strands in the Language Classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 81 (4), 443-456.

Palincsar, A.S. (1986). The Role of Dialogue in Providing Scaffolded Instruction. Educational Psychologist, 21, 73-98.

Palincsar, A.S. (1998). Social Constructivist Perspectives on Teaching and Learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 345-375.

Schmeelk, S.E. (2010). Tracing Students' Growing Understanding of Rational Numbers. (Doctoral Dissertation). Rutgers University, New Jersey.

Voss, J.F., & Dyke, J.A. (2001). Argumentation in Psychology: Background Comments. Discourse Processes, 32, 89-111.
Created on2013-03-28T22:36:49-05:00
Published on2014-03-05T09:37:18-05:00
Persistent URLhttp://dx.doi.org/doi:10.7282/T3RX9962