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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Web-based Tutorials in Supporting the Development of Argumentative Skills

M. Anne Britt, Northern Illinois University
Christopher A. Kurby, Northern Illinois University
Jodie A. Butler, Northern Illinois University
Christopher R. Wolfe, Miami University of Ohio

Abstract: Argumentation skill is important not only while attending school but also after graduation; however, many students leave high school unable to understand, evaluate and write arguments. We have recently found significant deficits in college students' comprehension, evaluation, and production of arguments. In terms of comprehension, college students were able to identify only 35% of the main claims and reasons in real texts, and they fail to consistently recall the claim precisely (75% accuracy). College students also have difficulty evaluating arguments, rejecting unwarranted arguments with only 68% accuracy. Finally, students had production difficulties including writing arguments with missing or imprecise claims, unelaborated or missing support, and omission of opposition.

We have traced the source of these deficits, in part, to the following factors: imprecise representations, failure to test support relationships, and biased strategies for search and production. To help students further develop each of these skills, we have developed three web-based tutorials that provide instruction and practice. In this presentation, we will describe each of the tutorials in detail, focusing on the principles behind the tutorials. Then, we will present an experiment testing the effectiveness of each of these tutorials partially ameliorating these skill deficits. Finally, we will discuss the limits of each tutorial and future directions to pursue.