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Argumentation Theory and its Applications to the Learning Sciences. Douglas Walton CRRAR. Starting Point. This presentation summarizes a theory of argumentation based on research in argumentation studies and artificial intelligence.

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starting point
Starting Point
  • This presentation summarizes a theory of argumentation based on research in argumentation studies and artificial intelligence.
  • This theory has three broad characteristics as an approach to rational cognition.
  • First, it is procedural, meaning that proving something is taken to be a sequence with a start point, an end point, and an interval in between representing a sequence of orderly steps.
  • Second it does not aim to prove something is true as knowledge that must be accepted beyond all doubt, but recognizes bounds of human rationality. It includes the study of error and fallacy.
  • Third, it views rational argumentation as a dialogue procedure, implying that two heads are better than one, when assessing claims on how to choose what to do or what to accept based on evidence.
schemes and dialogue models
Schemes and Dialogue Models
  • The two most prominent components of the theory are (1) use of argumentation schemes and (2) use of so-called formal models of dialogue that represent the conversational setting of an argument.
  • The theory also fits with and applies computer-assisted argument mapping technology for making argument diagrams that are useful for representing and summarizing arguments in a visual manner.
  • It is now well recognized that argumentative interactions play an important role in computer-supported collaborative learning (Baker, 2003, 47).
  • Argument mapping tools are now used to structure educational interactions (Andriessen and Schwartz, 2009).
scheme for argument from expert opinion
Scheme for Argument from Expert Opinion
  • Major Premise: E is an expert.
  • Minor Premise: E asserts that A is true (false).
  • Conclusion: A is true (false).
  • This form of argument is defeasible, meaning that it only holds tentatively in a given case, subject to the possibility of new evidence might come in that can defeat it.
  • It is important to recognize that argument from expert opinion is subject to critical questioning, and that therefore it needs to be treated as an open-ended type of argument rather than as a conclusive one
critical questions
Critical Questions
  • This set of six critical questions matches this scheme for argument from expert opinion (Walton, Reed and Macagno, 2008, 310).
  • CQ1:Expertise Question. How knowledgeable is E as an expert source?
  • CQ2:Field Question. Is E an expert in the field that A is in?
  • CQ3: Opinion Question. What did E assert that implies A?
  • CQ4: Trustworthiness Question. Is E personally reliable as a source?
  • CQ5: Consistency Question. Is A consistent with other experts opinions?
  • CQ6: Backup Evidence Question. Is E’s assertion based on evidence?
  • CQ1 questions the expert’s level of mastery of the field F. CQ4 questions the expert’s trustworthiness. For example, if the expert has something to lose or gain by saying A is true or false, this evidence would suggest that the expert may not be personally reliable.
  • The asking of acritical question defeats the argument temporarily until it has been answered successfully.
formal dialogue models
Formal Dialogue Models
  • Logical argumentation reaches a decision on whether to accept a claim or not based on the arguments both for and against the claim.
  • A dialogue is defined as an ordered 3-tuple {O, A, C} where O is the opening stage, A is the argumentation stage, and C is the closing stage.
  • Dialogue rules define what types of moves are allowed. At the opening stage, the participants agree to take part in some type of dialogue that has a collective goal.
  • From the logical argumentation point of view, an argument always has two sides, the pro and contra. They take turns making moves that contain speech acts.
examples of dialectical shifts
Examples of Dialectical Shifts
  • A contractor and homeowner are negotiating on the price of a foundation repair, and they shift to the issue of whether it would be a good idea to install an additional inch of concrete wall.
  • During a divorce dispute, the couple are negotiating on who should looks after the children, but the mediator shifts the discussion to a persuasion dialogue on the issue of which party is in the best position to undertake the task of looking after the children. Each side must give reasons, and this shift makes the dialogue less eristic.
belief and commitment
Belief and Commitment
  • Belief is a psychological construct that is hard to determine when evaluating argumentation, whereas commitments are more stable and observable (Nussbaum, 2011, 88).
  • In every dialogue there is a commitment store (Hamblin, 1970) consisting of a set of statements.
  • As each move is made a rule governing the speech act determines which statements need to be added to or removed from the commitment store.
  • For example, asserting that a statement is true commits one to defend the statement unless one withdraws the commitment.
collaborative learning
Collaborative Learning
  • A successful argument of the proponent in a dialogue must be based on premises that are commitments of the respondent.
  • This requirement has important implications for how the model supports collaborative learning.
explanation and education
Explanation and Education
  • Education often involves a situation where a teacher has the task of trying to explain something to a student, where the student can be expected to know some things but not others.
  • In the dialogue model of explanation, a successful explanation has been achieved when there has been a transfer of understanding from the party giving the explanation to the party asking for it.
  • The explanatory type of dialogue has an opening stage, an explanation stage and a closing stage.
what is an explanation
What is an Explanation?
  • The new dialectical theory (Walton, 2004) models an explanation as a dialogue between two agents in which one agent is presumed by a second agent to understand something, and the second agent asks a question meant to enable him to come to understand it as well.
  • An explanation is not only a deduction from general laws, or only a message delivered by one peer to the other, but the result of joint attempts to understand each other (Dillenbourg et al., 1996, 205).
  • The dialogue model articulates the view of Scriven (2002, p. 49): “Explanation is literally and logically the process of filling in gaps in understanding, and to do this we must start out with some understanding of something.”
  • Argument and explanation are different (as speech acts), but the tricky part is that they can be combined.
how to tell the difference
How to Tell the Difference?
  • Test to judge whether a given text of discourse contains an argument or an explanation.
  • Take the statement that is the thing to be proved or explained, and ask yourself the following question. Is it taken as an accepted fact, or something that is in doubt? If the former, it’s an explanation. If the latter, it’s an argument.
  • The Goal of Dialogue is Different
  • The purpose of an argument is to get the hearer to come to accept something that is doubtful or unsettled. The purpose of an explanation is to get him/her to understand something that he/she already accepts as a fact.
an implication of the theory
An Implication of the Theory
  • To explain to a student how science explains something the student already has a practical familiarity with, such as electricity or gravity, a teacher needs to base her explanations and arguments on the commitments of the student.
  • The teacher should begin with an everyday example where the student has an opinion on how something works, and use the student’s commitments to persuade him to see it differently (Macagno andKonstantinidou, 2013).
  • In such a case, argumentation is embedded within the successful explanation.
some readings
Some Readings
  • Andriessen J. and Schwarz, B. (2009). Argumentative Design. In Argumentation and Education, ed. Muller Mirza, M. and Perret-Clermont, A. Dordrecht: Springer, 145-174.
  • Baker, M. (2003). Computer-mediated Argumentative Interactions for the Co-elaboration of Scientific Notions, Arguing to Learn. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 47-78.
  • Dillenbourg, P., Baker, M., Blaye, M. and O’Malley, C. (1996). The Evolution of Research on Collaborative Learning. In E. Spada & P. Reiman (Eds). Learning in Humans and Learning in Humans and Machine: Towards an Interdisciplinary Learning Science, Oxford: Elsevier, 189-211.
  • Hamblin, C. L. (1970). Fallacies. London: Methuen.
  • Hamblin, C. L. (1971). Mathematical Models of Dialogue, Theoria, 37, 130-155.
  • Macagno, F. and Konstantinidou, A. (2013), What Students’ Arguments Can Tell Us: Using Argumentation Schemes in Science Education, ArgumentationDOI 10.1007/s10503-012-9284-5
  • Nussbaum, E. M. (2011). Argumentation, Dialogue Theory, and Probability Modeling: Alternative Frameworks for Argumentation Research in Education', Educational Psychologist, 46: 2, 84-106.
  • Walton, D. and Krabbe, E. C. W. (1995). Commitment in Dialogue. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Walton, D. (1998). The New Dialectic: Conversational Contexts of Argument. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Walton, D. (2006). Fundamentals of Critical Argumentation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Walton, D. (2008). Informal Logic, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Walton, D., Reed, C. and Macagno, F. (2008). Argumentation Schemes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2008.
  • Walton, D. (2012). Methods of Argumentation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.