Learning to Argue and Arguing to Learn

Argument (Flickr) by Benson Kua under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs Generic License

 I hate arguing. So what drew me to read the chapter “Arguing to Learn,” in the latest edition of The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences I do not know.

I am glad I did however, because I found out it is interesting and important reading. Andriessen & Baker (2014) state that learning to argue, not in the traditional oppositional sense, but in the collaborative sense, can actually develop reasoning, reflection, knowledge elaboration and articulation, as well as conceptual understanding. It also helps students learn about argumentative structures and develops social awareness.

The authors tell us that children from a very young age (three) understand the components of an argument. What they do not understand is their opponent. It is in understanding their opponent’s position that they gain the ability to develop complex reasoning and understanding.

Andriessen & Baker (2014) state that, “Many people have trouble arguing productively. They are not good at distinguishing evidence from theory and rarely consider alternative positions” (p. 447). Proof from recent and current elections in both Canada and the U. S. would attest to this fact.

It would seem that being able to argue collaboratively is an important skill for learning, and to this end, learning scientists are developing electronic environments which scaffold students when learning to argue. Even so, framing argumentation as collaborative as opposed to competitive is key. This could be challenging. When I keyed in the term “argument” in Google images, all of the images showed yelling, finger pointing, and even physical altercations.

Developing curriculum  that promotes and teaches collaborative argumentation as a way of deepening learning may be the place to start.


Live Life Happy (Flickr)  under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Andriessen, J. & Baker, M. (2014). Arguing to learn. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (3rd ed.) (pp. 439-460). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.





About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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