In partnership with the Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, and Institute of Physics

Getting critical within argumentation

The argumentation process involves critiquing and evaluating arguments for their strengths and weaknesses. Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom 1956) describes critiquing and evaluating as high-order thinking skills.

Critiquing arguments


The critical analysis of arguments can take two forms (Osborne et al, 2004):

  1. Critically analysing the evidence presented which supports the claim. This can occur within small group work, and can be as simple as students asking questions of each other.
  2. Considering counter-arguments. By acknowledging counter-arguments and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of these, students can develop the strength of their own arguments. More able students may be able to address counter-arguments in their written work. 

Both of these allow students to demonstrate and experiment with ways of communicating not only why their claim should be accepted, but why other claims should not. This is critical to argumentation, and one of the key features which makes it stand out from other concepts, such as explanation.

 

Evaluating arguments


One way of encouraging students to evaluate arguments is through peer review. This can be structured by presenting students with a set of success criteria to check against:

Success Criteria
Comments

Is the claim clear?

 

Has the claim been linked to evidence?

 

Does the evidence support the claim?

 

Counter argument: Have other arguments which could be made been suggested?

 

Is there an explanation of why this particular argument is stronger?

 

Success criteria such as these could potentially be used in any argumentation activity; presented at the start and evaluated against at the end.

Peer review of the arguments of others allows students to reflect upon what makes a strong and valid argument, and they can begin to learn what a good argument should include and how it could be structured. This fosters their own skill development, whilst giving another student constructive feedback.

 

Page last updated on 29 April 2013