Promoting Critical Thinking Through Argument Mapping: A Lab for Undergraduate Students

Francesca Crudele, Juliana Elisa Raffaghelli
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 22  •  2023  •  pp. 497-525

In undergraduate training, helping students improve argumentative text comprehension (CoT) by identifying the elements of an argumentative text and critical thinking (CT) by reconstructing the meaning of the text and constructing their own reflections is relevant. Argumentative skills are essential on both the personal and professional levels.

In recent decades, concern has developed over undergraduates’ poor skills in reframing and articulating their thinking on a topic, which affects critical thinking and the ability to express unique perspectives. Customized interventions in higher education could develop argumentative abilities for professional and personal use. In this regard, argument maps (AM) could be a useful tool for the visualization of arguments. They provide logical relationships between statements to help understand the reasoning chain.

Hybrid presence-distance research was conducted over four days. A quasi-experiment with one group and three tests – S1, S2, and S3 – was conducted.

Our study aims to investigate and enrich the research landscape, especially in the Italian university context, regarding the use of AM to support text comprehension and the development of argumentative skills.

Our preliminary descriptive analysis showed that AM improves students’ CoT and CT proficiency levels. These abilities improved from the beginning to the end of the experiment. Inferential analysis showed a beneficial pathway inflection on final learning improvement. Early encouraging results suggest that AMs can improve argumentation comprehension, production, and critical thinking in teaching and learning.

The learner could better manage knowledge and understand different perspectives with AM usage rules.

It is essential to remember that critical thinking is a multifaceted and complex concept. This article examined it as a proxy variable for text comprehension and argumentation skills. The length of exposure to the method, contexts and instruments (analog or digital), and age/education of participants must be considered when doing AM research.

The method would improve awareness of shared ideas and make it easier to enrich and rethink one’s thoughts on the topic.

To study AM roles in diverse types of information, future research could incorporate quantitative and qualitative approaches. Cross-curricular learning for everyday life in digital and AI-driven environments, as well as text comprehension and critical thinking, could also be examined. Further research could cover other aspects of the topic of critical thinking.

argument maps, comprehension text, critical thinking, argumentative skills, laboratory activity
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