Anahuac Valero Haro successfully defended his PhD thesis Fostering Argumentation with Online Learning Systems in Higher Education on June 27th, in the Omnia Auditorium of Wageningen University.
Argumentation is an important competence in multiple aspects of academic, professional, and personal life. Argumentation skills are closely linked to the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Such skills are essential to be able to solve the global, complex, and cross-disciplinary challenges of the Information Age and Knowledge Economy. In the particular context of education, argumentation and logical reasoning play a significant role in the acquisition of scientific knowledge as they are the corner-stones upon which critical thinking is built on.
Argumentation offers an analytic framework for evaluating the quality of discourse, and it helps learning partners grasp, comprehend, and acknowledge different viewpoints and opinions, and to refine their own opinions by considering and integrating other perspectives on the issue at hand. As such, fruitful discussions require students to be able to argue, think critically, and reason logically to explain their decisions, points of view, opinions, and provide feedback. Hence, fostering the development of students’ argumentation competence (i.e., students’ ability to argue, consisting of their knowledge on argumentation, argumentation behavior, and attitude toward argumentation) is a matter of great importance.
Despite the relevance of argumentation, students often struggle to argue in a reasoned way in academic settings. In addition, argumentation is often excluded from curricula, thus argumentation competence is often a by-product that develops indirectly and informally in the classroom.
This PhD thesis investigated the existing body of knowledge in Computer-Supported Collaborative Argumentation (CSCA) literature by providing an overview of the effects of instructional scaffolds, specifically of scaffolding on the various aspects of argumentative discourse activities that can result in deep and meaningful learning. This thesis also explores the relationships between the components that comprise argumentation competence and between this and domain-specific knowledge as these are the basis for designing and evaluating argumentation scaffolds. Next, the thesis delves into the design and evaluation of argumentation scaffolds by investigating the effects of scripting in an online learning environment by means of worked examples and peer feedback on the learning outcomes of students’ argumentative essay writing. Finally, the thesis investigates the design and evaluation of argumentation scaffolds by investigating the effects of scripting various peer feedback types in an online learning environment on the learning outcomes of students involved in argumentative essay writing.