Thursday, August 25, 2011

Argumentative Reading and Writing


Question: What are the reasons for teaching argumentative reading and writing and why are teachers reluctant to teach it?

Why is Teaching Argument Important?
“Acquiring argumentative reading and writing strategies and practices represents a key component of recent curricular reforms in schools and universities throughout the United States and the world…. Perhaps one of the more dramatic examples of the growing significance of argumentation is the emphasis of argumentative reading and writing in the Common Core State Standards for English language Arts for Grades 6-12 in U.S. Schools (Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association, 2010).” P. 273-274.

Why Are Teacher Reluctant to Teach Argumentation?
“On the one hand, although teachers may recognize the importance of argumentative reading and writing as central to acquiring academic literacies, they are often leery of introducing what may evolve into conflict and one-upmanship employed in the media, that is, argument consisting of competitive, combative debate…that leads to an ‘adversarial frame of mind’….

What Bad Habits Do Students Learn from the Media Concerning Debate?
“In addition, given their experiences with arguments in the media, students may then assume that in formulating claims, they simply need to summarize their claims to achieve the goal of convincing audiences without providing supporting evidence, considering counterarguments, or changing their own or others’ stances on an issue.”

Why Teach Argument?
 “On the other hand, the ability to identify the underlying argument, and its claims, warrants, and evidence, in reading and the ability to compose a high-quality argument, and its claims, warrants and evidence in writing are critical skills for academic success.” P. 274.

Comment: It is interesting that the authors of this research article lambaste the media for its failure to heed the requirements for true academic argument. Especially interrupting other people’s responses to claims. One place not to learn how to debate effectively is the media. Even when the speakers are not combative, they frequently interrupt rudely. Simon Constable of the Wall Street Journal staff interrupts when his guests are speaking and the guests have to fight frequently for air time with Constable. Yuk!

Other than using the media for examples of how not to debate, I have found that so long as the rules for debate or argumentation are clearly delineated, the concern about adversarial frames of mind is really of no concern—especially argument reduced to paper. RayS.

Title: “Teaching and Learning Argumentative Reading and Writing: A Review of Research.” GE Newell, et al. Reading Research Quarterly (July/ August/ September 2011), pp. 273-304.

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