Using Argument Diagrams to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in 80-100 What Philosophy Is

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 I (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 post-test 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 improves a student's ability to analyze, comprehend, and evaluate arguments
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