From Map to Essay: Designing and Evaluating DMap Features that Scaffold Linear Structuring of Argumentative Writing

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: John Nesbit, Faculty of Education

Project team: Joan Sharp, Department of Biological Sciences, Qing Liu, research assistant

Timeframe: April 2020 to December 2020

Funding: $5,000

Courses addressed:

  • BISC 102 – General Biology
  • EDUC 220 – Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • EDUC 222 – Research Methods in Educational Psychology

Description: Argumentation is a fundamental intellectual skill that is widely recognized as a key learning goal across disciplines. However, instructors find it challenging to teach argumentation. The Dialectical Map (DMap) is an open-source, LTI (Learning Technology Interoperability) tool that supports the teaching and learning of argumentation. The DMap visualizes the structure of argument and scaffolds planning and writing argumentative essays. For this project, we propose to further enhance the pedagogical value of the DMap tool by adding features that would make it easier for students to export text developed as a DMap to a .txt or .docx file. The DMap-to-Text feature is essential as it would enable students to port their argument content to a word processor in an outline format, which would allow a smoother transition between constructing an argument as a DMap and writing an essay using the content of the DMap. The long-term goal of this project is to provide students and instructors in every branch of disciplinary specialization in higher education with a free, open-source, visualization tool that supports learning and applying argumentation.

Questions addressed:

  • What features are essential for scaffolding linear structuring of argumentative writing?
  • What are students’ conscious perceptions of the effectiveness of the new DMap features in facilitating argumentative writing?
  • How effectively do the designed features facilitate transformation of a DMap into an argument essay
  • What are users’ perceptions of how to further enhance the visual features and functionality of the DMap tool?

Knowledge sharing: We plan to give presentations and workshops at intra-institution professional development settings (e.g., Teaching Matters, Open Education, and DEMOfest) to colleagues who seek innovative approaches to teaching argumentation and supporting argumentative writing.