Volume 32, Issue 3, September 2009
Teaching for Argumentative Thought
The conception of thought as a kind of argumentative dialogue has been influential in curricula designed to promote the development of thinking skills. Educators have sought to “teach” this kind of thinking by providing their students with opportunities to participate in argumentative exchange. This practice is based on the belief that thinking processes will mirror or mimic the interpersonal exchanges in which the thinker engages. In this article, another approach to teaching argumentative thought is developed. It is argued that while training and practice in interpersonal argumentation increases students’ overall argumentation skills, it is not particularly effective in helping students to develop the practice of engaging dialogically with their own beliefs. On this other approach, students are required to engage in “metacognitive inquiry” in which their own judgments in respect of curriculum materials, and in respect of the various strategies they have deployed to generate these judgments, become a subject matter for reflection and critical evaluation. The article concludes with the discussion of an in-class experiment in using the metacognitive approach.