22 SES 01 B, Teaching, Learning and Assesment in Higher Education
The Bologna Reform of the European Universities brings the development of student skills to the frontline of teachers' concerns. Acknowledging that the simple transfer of information must be replaced by teaching methods centred on student learning activities is now a reality, and has challenged traditional higher-education pedagogies focused on “right answers”. In a broader perspective, the teaching paradigm and the learning outcomes are changing, namely those which are connected to communication and argumentative skills.
The aim of this paper is to contribute to questioning the role of argumentation in higher education, in order to understand how the work of students incorporates the development of argumentative skills, in line with quality improvement demands in higher education. Assessment instruments related to the development of argumentative skills are identified and analysed in two Portuguese Schools (Education Sciences and Engineering, both from the University of Porto).
The specific objectives of this research are: 1) To evaluate the real importance of argumentative skills as a criterion for assessing students; 2) to analyze argumentative reasoning structures that are present in reports and other deliverables resulting from students’ assignments; and 3) to analyze argument pragmatics used by students.
Argumentation is structured upon contextualized and communicative reasoning, rather than text (and logic reasoning) based on assumptions that are not discussed. Argumentative reasoning fits well in the field of possible, preferred choice, for which the best arguments have to be produced (Grácio, 1992; 1998; Toulmin 2001).
All situations characterised by more proficient levels in the production and use of knowledge, as academic learning, assume the existence of choices that require reasoning and argumentative text. Furthermore, argumentation alternatives are essential for knowledge meaningful appropriation (Weston, 2005).
Argumentative reasoning is part of the soft skills that must be developed by higher-education students, since they are asked to support conclusions of experimental procedures, to arguably choose one theoretical option or technique among others, and to organize projects whose action lines must be sustained (Coffin, 2008).
The place for argumentation in higher education curricula differs from one country to another, and teaching traditions differ among Latin and Anglo-Saxon communities. Argumentation is usually seen as less important than the acquisition of knowledge and learning contents (Andrews, 2009), and rhetoric has long been misunderstood / mistreated (Perelman, 1997; Amossy, 2009). However, the changing relationship between higher education and society, both in the social implications of knowledge and in the structure of the knowledge society, enabled argumentation to emerge as a need to achieve equity, citizenship and social justice in contemporary higher education (Brennan, 2007). In addition, higher education policy literature has tended to follow the human capital development, and subsequently to promote civic values and behaviour, facilitating social mobility (id; ibidem). To achieve this purpose of ensuring equity it is important to develop argumentative skills among students.
Amossy, Ruth et Koren, Roselyne. (2009) Rhétorique et argumentation : approches croisées , Argumentation et Analyse du Discours [online], 2, URL : http://aad.revues.org/index561.html Andrews, Richard (2009). Argumentation in Higher Education – Improving practice through Theory and Researh. London : Routledge. Brennan, Jonh, Enders, Jurgen, Musselin, Christine, Teichler, Ulrich and Valimaa, Jussi. (2008) Higher Education looking forward: an agenda for future research. ESF. URL : http://www.esf.org/activities/forward-looks/social-sciences-scss/current-forward-looks-in-social-sciences/higher-education-in-europe-beyond-2010.html#c29044 Coffin, Caroline & O'Halloran, Kieran(2008)'Researching argumentation in educational contexts: new directions,new methods',International Journal of Research & Method in Education,31(3), 219 — 227 Grácio, Rui (1992). Nova retórica e tradição filosófica. Caderno de Filosofias, 5, 55-69. Grácio, Rui (1998). Consequências da retórica. Coimbra: Pé de Página. Perelman, Chaim (1987). Argumentação. In F. Gil (org). Oral / Escrito / Argumentação. Lisboa: Einaudi / Imprensa Nacional / Casa da Moeda, 234-265. Toulmin, Stephen (2001). Os Usos do Argumento. S. Paulo: Martins Fontes. Weston, Anthony (2005) A Arte de Argumentar, Lisboa: Gradiva.
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