Analogies Between Logic Programming and Linguistics For Developing Students' Understanding of Argumentation Texts

Noa Ragonis, Gila Shilo
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 17  •  2018  •  pp. 549-575

Research shows that students encounter difficulties in identifying the structure of argumentation texts and in understanding the main message of the argument. The research examined the effect that learning Logic Programming (LP), while applying logic inference, has on students’ understanding of argumentation texts.

Understanding an argumentation text means exposure to its structure, which requires the ability to identify the argument presented and to distinguish between the argument and its justifications. Argumentation is an important cognitive capacity for handling conflicting information, viewpoints, and opinions. Students’ lack of ability to identify the structure of argumentation texts, and to understand its’ main message, affects the understanding of texts in general, the writing of texts, and the presentation of oral arguments. Since Logic Programming is based on inference that is similar to the way in which people commonly believe that human inferential thinking is performed, our research approach was to investigate how learning LP in Computer Science affects the understanding of argumentation texts in Linguistics.

The research population included 319 11th-grade students from five high schools, divided into a study group and a control group. Students’ understanding was tested using knowledge questionnaires after completing their language studies, before (pre-study) and after (post-study) a year of learning LP. The knowledge questionnaires included argumentation paragraphs where students were asked to give each paragraph a title and to analyze the argument structure. In addition, an attitudes questionnaire was administered at the end of the school year in order to examine the students’ attitudes towards the connection between the two disciplines. The research applied a mixed method approach, combining both qualitative and quantitative methods.

The research and its’ findings contribute to the previous body of knowledge with relation to students difficulties in understanding argumentation texts in Linguistics studies. Moreover, it suggests a new approach of using argumentation in the framework of inference as apply in LP to scaffold students’ conceptions. The use of an interactive computerized system (like the logic programming language Prolog) can scaffold students in constructing their knowledge, develop their computational thinking skills, and also enables to vary the teaching methods.

Findings show that the students’ understanding of argumentation texts improved after learning LP. The study group students’ achievements were explicitly better compared with the control group students, who did not learn LP, though this was not always reflected with significant statistics. Students’ attitudes questionnaire revealed that students did not identify on their own the connections between the two disciplines and so could not explicitly use it to promote their understanding.

Creative educators, who value challenges, can greatly benefit their students if they collaborate in aim for applying interdisciplinary learning while combining those two disciplines. The research conclusions shows that it is possible to improve students’ understanding if teachers explicitly mediate and guide students in drawing analogies.

The analysis tool we developed and apply can be used by educators and researchers to evaluate the understanding of argumentative texts by learners. It can be used in language classes at all levels as well as by educators in other disciplines in which the understanding of the argumentative structure is fundamental.

Developing argumentation skills and computational thinking skills.

Vary future possible research can follow the presented approach: examining how LP teachers expose the logical structure of an argumentation paragraph when they write logic programs that describe the inference represented in texts; examining how language teachers coupe with learning and using LP; examines the knowledge and skills of students that experienced a mediate learning process in the two disciplines in parallel.

argumentation, logic programming education, language education, computa-tional thinking, interdisciplinary analogies
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