Computer-Aided Argument Mapping as a Tool for Teaching Critical Thinking

W. Martin Davies
University of Melbourne
As individuals we often face complex issues about which we must weigh evidence and come to conclusions. Corporations also have to make decisions on the basis of strong and compelling arguments. Legal practitioners, compelled by arguments for or against a proposition and underpinned by the weight of evidence, are often required to make judgments that affect the lives of others. Medical doctors face similar decisions. Governments make purchasing decisions—for example, for expensive military equipment—or decisions in the areas of public or foreign policy. These issues involve many arguments on all sides of difficult debates. These issues involve understanding the arguments of others and being able to make objections and provide rebuttals to objections. Students in universities deal with arguments all the time. A major purpose of a university education—regardless of subject matter—is to teach students how to read, understand, and respond to complex arguments. The ability to do this makes for highly employable, adaptable, and reflectively critical individuals. We often call the skill of marshaling arguments and assessing them “critical thinking.” All universities claim to instill the skill of critical thinking in their graduates and routinely note this in their advertising and promotional documents. This short paper outlines one way this skill can be taught.
Keywords critical thinking  argumentation  argument mapping
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