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Using Argument Diagrams to Improve Critical Thinking Skills



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Using Argument Diagrams to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in 80 100 What Philosophy Is Maralee Harrell1 Carnegie Mellon University Abstract After determining one set of skills that we hoped our students were learning in the introductory philosophy class at Carnegie Mellon University we designed an experiment performed twice over the course of two semesters to test whether they were actually learning these skills In addition there were four different lectures of this course in the Spring of 2004 and five in the Fall of 2004 and the students of Lecturer 1 in both semesters were taught the material using argument diagrams as a tool to aid understanding and critical evaluation while the other students were taught using more traditional methods We were interested in whether this tool would help the students develop the skills we hoped they would master in this course In each lecture the students were given a pre test at the beginning of the semester and a structurally identical posttest at the end We determined that the students did develop the skills in which we were interested over the course of the semester We also determined that the students who were able to construct argument diagrams gained significantly more than the other students We conclude that learning how to construct argument diagrams significantly improves a student s ability to analyze comprehend and evaluate arguments 1 Introduction In the introductory philosophy class at Carnegie Mellon University 80 100 What Philosophy Is as at any school one of the major learning goals is for the students the students to develop general critical thinking skills There is of course a long history of interest in teaching students to think critically but it s not always clear in what this ability consists In addition even though there are a few generally accepted measures e g the California Critical Thinking Skills Test and the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal but see also Paul et al 1990 and Halpern 1989



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