Read the comments on any website and you may despair at Americans’ inability to argue well. Thankfully, educators now name argumentive reasoning as one of the basics students should leave school with.
But what are these skills and how do children acquire them? Deanna Kuhn and Amanda Crowell, of Columbia University’s Teachers College, have designed an innovative curriculum to foster their development and measured the results. Among their findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, dialogue is a better path to developing argument skills than writing.
“Children engage in conversation from very early on,” explains Kuhn. “It has a point in real life.” Fulfilling a writing assignment, on the other hand, largely entails figuring out what the teacher wants and delivering it. To the student, “that’s its only function.”
Kuhn and Crowell conducted a three-year intervention at an urban middle school whose students were predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and low-income.