A Study of the Arguments Used by Undergraduate and Graduate Students During Disciplinary Discussions in the Classroom
This study sets out to examine how argumentative practices in the classroom evolve from undergraduate to graduate education. The focus is on the disciplinary discussions between the teacher and the students as well as among students, i.e., task-related discussions concerning the discipline taught in the course, with the aim to compare to what extent the arguments used by undergraduate and graduate students refer to scientific notions and theories related to the discipline taught in the course. The data corpus is constituted by 16 video-recorded lessons (about 24h of video) of two courses – one at undergraduate level and one at graduate level – in Developmental Psychology. The two courses were selected according to the following criteria: i) similar number of students, ii) similar disciplinary domain, iii) both courses are taught by the same teacher in English language. The analytical approach adopted to identify the students’ arguments relies on a qualitative methodology based on the pragma-dialectical ideal model of a critical discussion. The findings of this study show that the undergraduate students put forth fewer arguments than graduate students, and when they do so in most cases their arguments refer to common-sense knowledge and previous personal experience. On the other hand, the graduate students more frequently put forth arguments that refer to scientific notions and theories strictly or somehow related to the discipline taught in the course.